Friday, November 12, 2010


A devastating, hateful knotted up mess of a record, touching parts of doom metal, post-rock, hardcore and free jazz terror until a unified whole of distress and tension is created. This is one of the moodiest, most thorny records i've heard in some time, equally parts challenging and crushing and what it lacks in actual listenability it more than makes up for in breadth. Anguish is Ehnahre's bag, an intellectual and philosophical sort of stylized grasping that becomes distanced and bileous within minutes. If it wasn't so impersonal and poetic i'd call this this most damaged, emotionally wrecked album i've heard this year.
Fittingly enough, Ehnahre are an offshoot of the equally enigmatic and elliptical Kayo Dot, which easily accounts for the compositional ambiguity but not the rage. While Kayo Dot certainly have traffiked in heaviness (albeit of the spazzed out Naked City variety) they've never really been an angry band-every moment of release is crafted for symphonic effect, a stately build up to the architectures of sound the band trades so well in. Like Mogwai, you know where you're headed with Kayo Dot. Sometimes it's cathartic and sometimes it's infuriatingly disappointing but you know where you're going to end up. With Ehnahre you're just stumbling drunk in some rotting, stinking alleyway hoping you don't fall onto a knife and then into a puddle of piss filled with glass.
"Taming the Cannibals" is both stark and full, a dichotomy that works to the band's benefit even as it alienates the listener. You're challenged from the outset-this is Slint taken to a Gorguts level extreme, filtered through a prism of Don Caballero and Atheist on quaaludes. Whether to call Ehnahre metal or not is a good question indeed and likely one that will be debated for a while; the aggression and discordance (as well as the ample amounts of blast beats and double bass dexterity) certainly mark it as such but the pace and atmosphere speak more to Disembowelment and King Crimson than Keelhaul. So too do Ryan McGuire's vocals speak more to a Khanate-esque approach than any other genre, and the presence of James Plotkin in the mastering chair only underline the similarities between the two sonically. Both traffic in spacious, wasted dirging puncuated by harsh vocal admonishments and lyrical declarations of disgust. Both value weight both and both understand dynamic, but where Khanate move at one endless, dragging slosh, Ehnahre dance and dart and stumble, bouncing off walls while spitting in faces. It's fractured-i'm not sure if i can term it any better.
Those fractures add up to an infinite slicing. This music cuts through from the outset, the moment Ricardo Donoso's buzzingly busy drums begin to boggle and disturb the mind on "The Clatterbones" and throughout (and here even the lyrics take on a sly referential, with their latent and hinted anti-semitism recalling the more extreme side of black metal), carrying through to the industrial waste of "Revelation and Decline" and into the tortured doom agonies of "Birth." It's a stunning construct by musicians who are obviously paying attention to both the past and the contemporary, a microscope trained on the debris left by those who came before and did only slightly less. This is music for musicians, yes, but it's also music for anyone who's felt defeated and shit on, as well as anyone who's yearning for an angular and spiteful declaration against everyone else. This is a dance for the world's end, a ritualistic call for blood and acid rain, an elegy crafted out of both temperance and haunting despair. Truly unique, twisting and mathematical, recommended for anyone into both Rodan and Monarch. Great stuff.


This album marks the second Hawkwind tribute album i've reviewed and the third one i own overall. I note this fact because i don't own a single album by the actual Hawkwind-it's just these tributes have had such stellar lineups it makes me forget the fact that Hawkwind never really clicked for me. Call sacrilege on me if you must but i never felt the need to go space-questing with the band that kicked out Lemmy.
"In Search of Hawkwind" originated aa a seven-inch project commissioned/brainstormed by the guys from lackluster psych band Mugstar (what an awful fucking name) and here they spiderweb those little slabs of wax into an all-out hour long freakfest showcasing some of the more song-oriented material from their beloved spacelords. Everything here fits nicely into ten minute boxes. Fittingly enough Mugstar themselves get two tracks, tearing through "Born to Go" and "Paradox" and doing a pretty decent job of both (although Paradox rocks harder and seems a bit more frenzied, both have ample amounts of whoosh and cosmic burbles); the quasi-fine work they do here almost leads one to believe they aren't one of the most workhorselike and boring psych-bands out there. On the opposite end of doing well, Kinski turn in a plodding and near-inept take on "Master of the Universe" that only serves to remind me why i hate them so much. Bland sound, whiny singing and utterly terrible guitar playing (seriously shitty-the guy thinks turning on a fuzz pedal makes you Hendrix-level) along with a turtle-like pace through the song all add up to six minutes of crap served piping hot. If i ever met anyone who told me their idea of psychedelia was Kinski, i might have to punch them in the face. Almost as bad are Magoo (and again, what the fuck? Magoo? Are you kidding me? The only good thing they ever did was share a split with Mogwai) wasting their way through a sunshiney, shimmery version of "Space is Deep." It sounds like something off a fucking Blur album and if i need to tell you why that's a bad thing you aren't the audience i'm looking to reach with these reviews.
So what the hell is good on this record? Anything? Yes. The highlight here, and near worth the price of admission, is Bardo Pond's staggering, mountainous, monolithic wade through the venomous sonic sludge of "Lord of Light." This is prime Pond, an utter vomit of a track, oozing filth and crusty distortion while squeals of rotting wah-horror work their way out from underneath. Isobel's vocals and flute playing are both eerie and angelic, adding a sure sense of beautiful unease to a ten minute metallized funeral dirge. Fucking amazing, and nice to hear Bardo Pond coming this crushingly again. Mudhoney take a punky spin on "Urban Guerilla" and slow it down a bit in the middle to get cosmonautical, reminding me quite a bit of their take on the Spacemen 3's "Revolution" from a few years past. I can't really call their work here psychedelic but it certainly caters to what they do well-amped up garage fury and overfuzzed Fender abuse. Acid Mothers Temple pop up as well (marking their second appearance on a Hawkwind tribute) and supposedly cover "Brainstorm" but it might as well be any seven minute freakfest excised from one of their own songs. These days i feel i'm getting shorted if i'm not hearing AMT in at least 20 minute doses so i can't really count their contribution a high point-it's more like visiting an old friend and catching up over some fantastic coffee and nostalgia. Previously reviewed stumblers White Hills come barreling out towards the end and work up a psych-cloud out of "Be Yourself" while adding another notch to the "quality" side of their tally for me. Not sure if it can forgive so many grievous and boring missteps but it's a fun six minutes to say the least-all roaring guitars and scathing, arcing feedback shaped into huge, glistening bubbles of grime and smoke, drowning out every other instrument until it all fades into a near-folksy jangle. Lastly, the overhyped stumble-psych Moon Duo blow through "Hurry on Sundown" in fittingly narcoleptic fashion, crafting a bit of AM radio minimalism over which to throw down a skronked out crumbling fuzz solo. It's a little too Velvet Underground for my tastes and doesn't do much to distinguish the duo from their full time gig in Wooden Shjips but it's rendered nicely in shades of grey and almost soothingly hypnotic enough for me to dig it.
There you have it. Should you get this one? If you really love Hawkwind, probably (and hell-i might not love them enough to make an honest appraisal of this album) but if you're just looking to hear some good psych damage there's plenty of other places to go. For me the Bardo Pond track cements this one (and let me say again, just so you know-their track fucking destroys) but there isn't too much else to recommend it. I think Neurot's tribute from a few months back was far more interesting as well as sonically devastating and the rare "Underground Daze" tribute double album does a much better job capturing the scope and spaciousness that Hawkwind's best work summoned up. This is just a quick little orbit around the moon.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Thirty minute slab of vicious, paleolithic space rock from one of modern psychedelia's most inconsistent practitioners. I've steered away from White Hills and kept them distanced from myself for precisely that reason-some of the records they've released onto the world are complete and utter shit-but to my surprise they've put together some of their best material and slapped it together on this very lovely piece of wax (one thing White Hills can never be accused of is skimping on packaging and design; their vinyl is always jaw-droppingly cool and i appreciate that) and induced a head-nodding zone-out trip that rivals AMT at their wooliest.
I can safely recommend this on the awesome strength of the first track alone. "Drift Away" is a stone fucking killer, a maelstrom of guitar rock excess and moog waste rolled up into a thick fat thundercloud of negative bliss and bad vibes. And it rocks hard. Things start off slow and whispered until about four minutes in, when the distortion starts oozing out by the barrel and the drums kick in for some full frontal lobe massage and brain haze damage. Then the guitar solo starts up, cutting through fucking everything else on the track. It's glorious and it doesn't stop until the song does and i fucking love it. The best part is the guy isn't that great-he repeats a lot of the same phrases over and over certainly lacks a little in dexterity-but it doesn't matter because he's in his own little world, there's probably a fog machine vomiting smoke all over the room and White Hills are in the zone on this shit. Skill gives completely over to mood and feeling and desire and that sort of formless forgetting of reality is what the best psychedelic music is about. It's astral, difficult to tap into and it's very real. The fact that i'm disappointed by so much of what White Hills churns out just reinforces the quality of "Drift Away" for me-if they could get to this place, all the time, somehow, then White Hills would be damn near unstoppable.
But they can't get there all the time. This is the sad truth. They try, yes, but in this instance the effort alone doesn't warrant praise. Too many modern psych-rock outfits deviate from the rock aspect and deluge the underground with a reckless belch of worthless, meandering clatter jams recorded in their garage. Too many labels are eager to put that shit out if there's a semi-recognizable name affixed to the effrontery. Take a tour of White Hills' back catalogue and see what i mean. I don't want to listen to some idiot whale on aluminum buckets for 15 minutes in an empty garage. That's not pyschedelic, that's just fucking lame. Plug in, fog up and reach the stars.
Side Two of "Stolen Stars..." is slightly less successful in that it doesn't go for the throat in such an aggressive rock manner but it's still pretty mind melding. Two thick lengthy drone excursions made up of moog waves and feedback try to bring you back down to earth after the cosmic journey that "Drift Away" led you on. It's passable as well as physical (as long as the volume is high enough) but it isn't the same as Side One. I know that i personally favor a slightly more assaultive approach to psychedelia, and maybe my condemnation of White Hills for not fitting into that narrow niche is unfair, but i know they could be there, and that's what bugs me most. The band has talents they're not utilizing to the fullest, and i just won't be satisfied with them until they release the dragon wholly.