Track premiere: Telephone Exchange – ~ (2021 Up In Her Room Records)

~ from the upcoming album on Up In Her Room Records

All the way from Mexico City, the enigmatic musical entity Telephone Exchange brings us a new sign of life that eventually lead to their new album Telegrafos de Mexico on Up In Her Room Records later this year.

So who are they? Well, that remains a bit shady, and their official bio states: “Telephone exchange is a giant processor of all human practice” so I guess we should just listen to the sounds…which are quite hazy and enigmatic as well! From their first instrumental song “~” we can conclude that they mix shoegaze, postpunk and krautrock with cinematic black and white images, so I what’s not to love? Dive in deep people and stay on the look out for that album.

Review + Q&A: King Buffalo- The Burden Of Restlessness (2021, Stickman Records)

A musician always strives to transcend base notions like genre, style, or even being a band. Becoming your own entity is the highest goal. King Buffalo are well on their way of achieving this goal. With The Burden Of Restlessness they have captured a period in time and a process of inner turmoil in such a way that it completely transcends being a stoner band, playing heavy songs, or being “metal” or whatever.

Sure, these songs are heavy, heavier than King Buffalo have sounded so far, and sure their music still finds itself somewhere between psychedelic rock and progressive metal, but other than that they have firmly founded themselves as their own beast.

Striking for this release especially are the lyrics. For someone who has dealt with depression and inner darkness like me they really hit hard, being more explicit than ever with phrases like “every night I dream a million different ways for me to die” (Hebetation), or the way they describe the walls closing in in Silverfish (I think I’m unraveling…). It’s this amazing vulnerability that the band shows that immensely increases their urgency and importance. The music supports the lyrics and the message, and feels like a vessel in which the lyrics are never an afterthought or just backdrop.

It’s quite unbelievable that The Burden Of Restlessness is only just the first record of three (!) that King Buffalo has planned this year. It would have done fine as a full standalone album, but clearly the band is not yet done talking. As a matter of fact: I wasn’t done talking to them either, because I spoke with singer/guitairst Sean McVay about the past year, about the new album, and what is still to come…

First of all I’d like to ask you how you all are right now, how have the past few months been for the band? 
We’re all doing well. We’ve managed to stay healthy and extremely busy, which has been great. 

I have listened to The Burden Of Restlessness non-stop since I got the stream. The first thing that struck me was that the music sounds a lot heavier and more aggressive, more towards progmetal than psychedelic blues. Would you agree and do you have an explanation for it? 
I think the past few years have been difficult for everyone (to say the least). I know for me, personally I was dealing with a lot of things and was in a dark place, and the pandemic really just magnified that. I found that in the course of writing and jamming, we were naturally delving into some more focused and heavy sounding territory. For me it was simply what felt right in that moment. I liked the idea of trying to create music that had some of the same feelings of tension and discomfort that I felt was universal at that time, so we really embraced it. 

I was also wondering about the lyrics: did you write before or after the music? How did the songwriting process take place any way, what was the setting? 

All the instrumental arrangements came before the lyrics, but there was usually a line or a phrase of lyrics in the background while sorting all that out. About 95% of all the music came from jamming. We’d simply hit record and play until things either fizzled out or fell apart. I’d take the recordings home and start cutting things and moving sections around. I would send stuff to the band for feedback, and would start putting together the lyrical themes and concepts for the record. Once we had those set, I’d record some improvised vocal mumblings over the instrumental, refining the melodies, and would send those, along with some lyrics and general themes to Scott who would then write a bunch of brainstormed lyrics and send them back to me. I’d then take what he wrote and rework it. We’d go back and forth like that until it was all written.

The lyrics made me worry a little bit to be honest. Having suffered from depression myself I can see a lot of that back in a lot of these songs. Can I say you have never been this explicit before? I saw a glimpse of it in the Repeater EP, but Longing To Be The Mountain was a bit more hopeful(or hidden) wasn’t it? What can/do you want to tell me about them? 
Well like I mentioned above, I was in a really dark place at the time. A few years ago I had some really intense family things come to light that I really struggled to deal with. Externally, the state of affairs in the US was getting increasingly horrifying, bizarre and dystopian… and on top of all that, a worldwide pandemic hit. The cacophony of everything felt so palpable and inescapable. Trying to write about anything else just felt disingenuous, and trying to nibble around the edges and speak ambiguously felt dishonest. I tend to be a pretty private person when it comes to this sort of thing, so making this open and candid of a record was extremely scary for me. In the end though I am incredibly proud of this record, and hopefully it speaks to at least one other person who maybe was struggling with similar things. 

Despite, or maybe due to this Covid period you have taken up the plan of recording three albums this year! Can you tell me a little bit about how this plan came to being? Is there an individual concept for each of these three albums? Is it all worked out yet? 

We certainly didn’t set out with this whole crazy idea in mind. We started jamming, and before we knew it we had about 4-5 hours of new material that we were excited about. We started whittling things down, and eventually settled on the idea of 3 different and distinct records, with the same protagonist throughout each one. Each record has a very different feel and sound to them, and there is a story arc through all of them, but they really don’t need to be listened to in sequence to be able to follow along in my opinion. Record number 2 is in the later post production phase now, and pre production on record 3 will start here quite soon. Unfortunately I can’t say much more than that at the moment. We will be making announcements as we can. We did just receive word recently that our pressing plant is experiencing delays due to aftereffects of the pandemic, and high order volumes, so we’re crossing our fingers that things get back on track and our whole plan doesn’t get too messed up. 

What was the main driving factor behind making this album? And in what way did it differ from your previous work? 

For me the main driving force behind this record was trying to capture the uneasiness of everything I was feeling at the time. I wanted to try and make our most intimate, honest and aggressive record yet, and I wanted it to sound thicker, and more present than any of our previous works. 

Did you guys listen to specific music over the last year? And do you keep up with new music at all? 
We do keep up with new music, but I can’t speak to what the other guys have been listening to. As for myself, I really haven’t been listening to all that much music lately. I tend to try and limit my listening during writing periods because I feel like I end up accidentally regurgitating too many things if I’m not careful. However, one band that I stumbled across recently that absolutely blew my mind was Guerrilla Toss. They are insane. 

What are your plans for after this year? And what is your ultimate dream as a band? 

Hopefully things keep trending positively and we can get back to touring. We’re scheduled to hit the road again in September and we are super stoked for it. Honestly I don’t know if the “ultimate dream” is much different than what we’ve usually done. I just want to keep making records that push and excite us as musicians, and I want to be able to tour and perform live. Hopefully its something we’ll get to do for a long time.

Well, I really hope I will see you on the road soon. I will definitely show up somewhere in Europe when you get there in the future. Thanks a lot for your time, I wish you all the best
Thank you! We’re definitely itching to get back over to Europe as soon as we can. In the meantime stay safe and heathy, and hopefully we’ll see you soon!

Interview Cult Of Dom Keller

cULt oF dOm KeLlEr…

With their fifth album They Carried The Dead In A UFO British dark psych brooders Cult Of Dom Keller have created their fiercest work yet. Written briefly before the pandemic, but recorded right in the middle, the album radiates the eerie vibes of these caustic and hectic times. Their personalities shimmer through the harsh noisy fuzz of the music, and you can hear they are dark movie fans, but also that they didn’t always have an easy time these days. I was quite thrilled I had the honor of speaking to singer/guitarist Ryan DelGaudio and keys/vocalist Neil Marsden about these things, and quite a lot more.

How have you been doing? How has your “Corona” experience been so far?

Ryan: I’m very well, thank you. I’ve been busy working, writing new songs, growing my beard, trimming my beard, becoming a father for the second time and now having no time to trim my beard. As for the ‘Corona’ experience, I’ve worked solidly through it so this ‘new normal’ became ‘my normal’ very quickly. I’m not a worrier.
I keep myself busy. Babies, beards, music…Keep the mind active.

Neil: I’ve found it very surreal. Nothing like a good pandemic to expose the cracks in humanity. It’s a very creative time for power and disaster capitalism and as good a time as any for an existential crisis.

Was ‘They Carried The Dead In a UFO’  much influenced by the pandemic? In what way?

Ryan: Most of the album was written and demoed before the pandemic. It’s a heavy, dark journey that I think feels in tune with the zeitgeist. With no gigs and tours to get in the way we were able to spend more time than ever really sculpting the tracks and defining the layers. As we were mixing and producing everything ourselves, this album felt more personal and creative than any of the previous albums. When you start to get other people’s fingers dipping into your pie it begins to taint the taste. This album is our best pie yet.

Neil: It certainly forced us to adapt how we approach putting an album together. We never make 2 albums the same way twice and this one was no exception. I’d say the pandemic gave us licence to push that envelope even further than we have before. 

Ok, I love this about you, but I always have a hard time defining your sound: what would you say, or is there perhaps a description someone else once did that you thought was spot on?

Neil: Shindig’s review of the new LP is pretty much on the money:
“Post Psyche Pre Prog Freak out”. I’m not sure we have a sound. We know what works for us and what doesn’t.

Ryan: At the dark heart of our music we’re just a deformed, weird bastardisation of the blues.

Can you describe the period between your previous album and the new one? What has been the band’s major progression since then?

Neil: Ascend went down really well. People seem to dig the looser lo-fi stuff. With UFO we wanted to make a studio album, but we couldn’t go to a studio; so we did the next best thing and made a DIY home-studio(s) album mostly online. The difference between the new LP and the last is all the material on UFO is brand new; the collaboration was more fluid; we spent a lot of time crafting it, instead of smashing things together like a Frankenstein collider – the new material is more elegant than some of our previous monsters.

Ryan: The early albums are basically Neil and I’s demos.

Then we made a weird goth post punk album ( Goodbye to the Light ) that some people got and others didn’t. With ‘Ascend’ we just recorded the sound of us losing our minds and with the new album ‘They carried the dead in a UFO’, we really crafted and sculpted these sonic experiments into our best collection of songs to date. Recently Italy’s ‘Rockerilla’ magazine described the new album as ‘Brutalist Cinematic Noise’. I think that kinda nails the overall feel of the record.

I find the new album pretty dark, even darker than I’m used to by you guys. Would you agree? And would you be able to explain it?

Ryan: Unhealthy obsessions with UFOs, cults, conspiracies and insomnia are probably to blame…

Neil: Darks times require a dark soundtrack

Your songs sound pretty unconventional at times, with switches between electronic and acoustic music, how does the writing process go? Do you choose instrumentation before writing, or the other way around? And is it a band process or do individual members contribute pieces?

Neil: Me and Ryan write the songs.Then we pass ideas back and forth until we’re happy something gels, then we repeat the process over and over. It’s a pretty organic process, we often swap instruments and experiment with other sources of sound too; it’s a bit like a musical jigsaw puzzle or a painting: none of it makes sense at the beginning. Al and Liam were going to the studio when they could to add overdubs, that’s where they laid down the bass and drums that became ‘The Last King’. Depending on who ends up with the most bits and pieces, that person tends to do the lion’s share of crafting and arranging. We kinda mix together by sharing many, many versions of songs between the band and tweak based on feedback until everyone is happy(ish). The whole of UFO was produced and mixed by me and Ryan. On this album we worked similarly to how we produced our side-project, Monumentals. I think the experience of working on that record together had a massive influence on UFO.

Ryan: I also think it’s definitely due to being able to say that no one’s ego is bigger than the track. If a track only needs a vocal and a tom to make it work then sometimes we end up stripping instruments off then revisiting with a different idea(s).

The album transcends genres, and I get the feeling the album title isn’t necessarily just referring to any sci-fi theme either, can you lift a tip of the veil when it comes to the lyrical concept?

Neil: The lyrics often come after the music for me. They tend to be heavily influenced by my mood, concerns and state of mind at the time. They have to be impulsive and cathartic and hopefully not shit.

Ryan: I keep lyrics I come up with noted down in my phone and when we start a piece of music that chimes with those lyrics then sometimes it becomes a springboard to developing those lyrics. Most of the time I guess even our most ‘personal’ songs seem abstract. 

In ‘Cage The Masters’ there is an enigmatic part where you repeat the sentence “I die every night, but I’m born again”, it doesn’t feel like that’s a good thing either…would you care to elaborate?

Neil: I have ADHD, so sleep has always been a challenge. I have to completely exhaust myself in one way or another to rest. It’s been worse since the pandemic. I’m sleeping a little better now that the album is finished.

The last song on the album “The Last King Of Hell” in my humble opinion is the best thing you ever did, it’s definitely on my list as one of the greatest songs I’ve heard this year. What can you tell me about the writing process of that one? Did you feel it was possible gold as well when creating it? And is there a reason it was placed at the end of the album?

Ryan: Al and Liam layed down this brooding kraut garage groove and once we began laying down the guitars and keys we began to build and build with the intention of creating this giant sonic monster to end the album with. Once Neil laid down his vocal we knew we had something pretty special.

Neil: Yeah, it’s our Rosemary’s baby. The bass and drums on that track are the only part of the LP where 2 members of the band play together in the same room. Once we had the key components we continued to share ideas; swapping in and out different parts – we re-recorded most of the original jam part in the end as well; it was very 2 steps forward, 1 step back. We experimented with the structure until the journey and textures flowed and built right. Mixing it was a real labour of love and at times despair. There are 30 or more tracks playing in unison by the end and I really wanted the listener to be able to hear them all at the same time. 

I find your music quite cinematic – it makes me think of ‘PI’ and ‘Metropolis’. What are your favourite films?

Ryan: Love Fritz Lang: ‘M’ and ‘Metropolis’, ‘Dr Mabuse’. Stuff like
‘Cabinet of Dr Caligari’ , ‘Freaks’,  ‘Night of the Hunter’, – those dark, brooding black and white classics. Other favourites : Hitchcock, Sergio Leone, Jodorowsky, Lynch, Coen Bros…

Neil: Yeah, almost anything by Aronofsky and the Coen Bros. I really love dark twisted cerebral movies. Sci-fi, the more claustrophobic and mental the better. John Carpenter is a fave. The music plays a big part for me. ‘Blade Runner’ is one of my all time favourite movies. I like 80’s stuff too and old 60’s & 70’s B-movies and hammer horror is fun. ‘The Wickerman’ (original) has to be up there… Sorry, Nicolas Cage…love your mad shit too 🙂 

The Cult Of Dom Keller- They Carried The Dead In A UFO (2021 Fuzz Club Records)

Sunglasses at night, shady black and white cult films, black makeup, leather jackets. For a band on a psych label like Fuzz Club Records, Cult Of Dom Keller are pretty dark. Their music oozes corrupted gothic wave romanticism dressed in fuzz. They Caried Their Dead In A UFO is the title of their new album, and it brilliantly captures what these Brits are good at: mixing creepiness with space music.

There is a dark cinematic quality to these tracks, transporting the listener to shady alleyways and flashes of black and white movies like Metropolis, or even a modern darky like Darren Aronofsky’s Pi. Take Psychic Surgery for instance, with the pathos drenched lyrics going “maybe this is hell on earth…”. The guitars chug and feedback dangerously, and you can see flashes of the main character of the movie Pi picking up the drill and boring a hole in his skull to relieve the pain of knowing his dreadful secret…

Cinematic aspects aside though, musically The Cult Of Dom Keller have really outdone themselves this time as well. Each track has a unique and memorable spin to it, from the 80s darkwave stomper Lyssa, to the agonizing sci-fi horror of Cage The Masters with the line I die every night//but I’m born again slowly worming a way into your brain making you wonder; what does it all mean? In what kind of psychedelic wonderhell do these guys live? And then there is the grande finale of the album with the incredible Last King Of Hell, which I peg to be the best song of the year. It’s a track that starts off with a twisted Western feel, creeping up towards a deafening fuzz crescendo with a pulsating repetitiveness that will bury you alive.

You guessed it, They Caried Their Dead In A UFO is epic. And it’s not just a terrific album for psych or goth fans, with The Cult Of Dom Keller so vastly upping their songwriting game they have created a record that transcends genre becoming one of the most interesting and spellbinding albums of this year.

Angad Berar- Elephants On The Beach (2021 vinyl release, Echodelick Records)

There have been some cruel early mornings now, when I could not sleep because my back was killing me and urging me to get up, when this little nugget by Indian solo artist Angad Berar has really been there for me. I would get on my coat, get my two dogs, and just stroll in the earliness of dawn with Elephants On the Beach on my headphones. And you know, everything is a little bit more alright when listening to this record.

It’s a record about tripping, about watching movies, listening to your surroundings, and about being open about life experiences and learning. Without any lyrics at all, but through soundbites and just general positive vibrations in his music Angad Berar tells his listeners to just go with the flow, let the music take you where it wants you to go, and take it easy. I have had experiences like this listening to albums like Tommy Guerrero’s Road To Nowhere, but not all that many. And let’s face it; for instrumental minimal music to really hit you like that, it’s quite special.

It’s a good thing then that US based Echodelick Records have picked up this album and properly release it on vinyl. It was originally released in 2019 already to little acclaim and would have definitely flown under my radar if it wasn’t for them. So go on, open up your third eye, take this trip with elephants on that beautiful Goa beach. You’ll find things you would not expect from an instrumental album.

Review V.A.- Head Rush (2021 Fruits De Mer Records)

Ok, normally for a compilation on krautrock like this, I’d introduce you to the genre a little bit, give you some historical context. We will get to that, but let me just show you the tracklist of this juicy box first, because oh man! It’s a doozy…

1. Giacomo & Carolina – Sunrise, Part 7 (5:05)
2. Silver Vials – Follow The Sun (6:05)
3. Das Blaue Palais – Zeitfeld (Dusseldorf Motorik Mix) (8:11)
4. The Love Explosion – Anarchy! (3:58)
5. David Oakes – The Sahara (2020 Remix) (5:04)
6. Sonic Trip Project – Getaway (11:10)

1. Moon Goose – Shiny Man (5:41)
2. Oslo Tapes – Obsession Is The Mother Of All (5:54)
3. Jay Tausig – Ecstatic Engines (8:42)
4. Son Of Ohm – Telefunken Baby (12:52)
5. Alber Jupiter – Martine A La Plage (7:15)

1. The Lost Stoned Pandas – Motorik Wah Nine (10:16)
2. Motor!k – Tyrants (10:28)
3. Culto Al Qondor – Ei (12:19)
4. Psychic Lemon – Jam 7 (7:01)

bonus CD:
1. Taras Bulba – Vuh Part 1 (3:56)
2. Vince Cory – 69 Wheeler (7:53)
3. Psychic Lemon – Jam 5 (8:26)
4. Audio Cologne Project – Grobmotorik (6:51)
5. Taras Bulba – Vuh Part 2 (5:15)
6. Icarus Peel – Der Wald (14:14)
7. The Legendary Flower Punk – Watussi Live (30:25)

Ok so krautrock, or “Kosmische Musik”, originates from 60s/70s era Western Germany. From there it developed not so much as a genre, but as a state of mind. Bands like Amon Düül, Can, Neu!, Kraftwerk, and Guru Guru all had completely different means to achieve the same goal: a higher state. A head rush of sorts if you will, achieved by hypnotic, sermonic beats and chants, although a lot of this type of music is actually devoid of any human vocals. The music could vary on a wide range from experimental progrock to dense electronic beat music. On this Fruits De Mer records compilation twenty-one contemporary psychedelic bands remind us that luckily the movement is far from dead.

Personally I prefer guitar based krautrock to its electronic counterpart, although there are some crossbreeds on here that are definitely worth your while as well. I won’t go over everything, but I will feature a couple of my personal highlights:

First of all my fellow Dutchman Leonardo Soundweaver needs a mention with his mesmerizing Son Of Ohm. The song Telefunken Baby! isn’t stingy on the reverb which is just the way I like my kraut, check it out here:

Another real banger are the Belgians of the aptly named Motor!k. They bring a flawless example of that quintessential kraut characteristic: the motorik beat. On Tyrants we are served ten minutes of it, sprinkled with subtle keyboards and plenty of delay pedal doodling:

Another real gem can be found on the added bonus CD, that closes with a real treat by Russian weirdo psych band The Legendary Flowerpunk. Their 30+ minute version of the song Watussi is half an hour of pure instrumental bliss. It’s such a pity that covid ruined their European tour or I would definitely have checked this out in its true form by now:

Other cool recommendations without online previews are Taras Bulba (with a “reworking” of Popul Vuh’s Vuh in two parts), the always awesome Psychic Lemon with another one of their numbered jams (5), and Oslo Tapes with a preview track from their adventurous new album ør, out on Pelagic Records in June (and of course featured on this blog). But as you can see from the tracklist above, there is plenty more to enjoy for kraut heads here. Get a copy if you’re lucky, because I think I just saw that all the pre-orders had already gone.

Snakes Don’t Belong In Alaska- The Eternal Electric Landscape (2021 Up In Her Room Records)

Improvisational bands live dangerously. You’ll never quite know what you’re going to get. That’s why it is so incredibly impressive that The Eternal Electric Landscape by Snakes Don’t Belong In Alaska sounds like a dark concept album, like the whole thing has little to do with chance or fate…or is it perhaps black magic?

From the get go the UK quartet goes Through The Darkest Dimensions, summoning a mysterious atmosphere, with ghoulish, wailing vocals and hair-raising synths. The plodding drums plod threateningly on, towards impending doom…but slowly, without any rush, the whole eleven minutes long…

Onwards with the hypnotic German krautrock vibes of Elektrische Zeitreise. Kaleidoscopic melodies claw into each other playing tricks on your senses. And that’s still the lightest track of the bunch, because The Holy Mountain Of Fire brings all the epicness that title promises, and then some. The vocals sound like a demented sermon by some fallen priest, while the guitars build up ominous walls.

Walls that lead up to the final song The Eternal Electric Landscape, and its big crescendo: The Horned Serpent. It’s a ritualistic song with dark chanting gang vocals and endlessly spiraling riffs over brooding synths. Once again it amazes me how Snakes Don’t Belong In Alaska are able to keep up their dark concept of psychedelic madness without much planning or scheming. The fact that they are an improvisational band, and that these dark musings spring from their band chemistry and collective imaginations is quite amazing, and a bit frightening too…it must be black magic.

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