Review + Q&A: tAngerinecAt- Glass (2022, self-released)

While the album was written well before it began, Glass by the UK based duo tAngerinecAt seems in everything to breathe the caustic anxiety and darkness of the current war in Ukraine. Glass shatters to the floor throughout the album on more than one occasion, symbolizing destruction and death, while the eerie post-goth atmosphere on the album smells of bombed buildings and cities emptied of all humanity.

It’s not so strange that an album by tAngerinecAt would have a Ukrainian vibe, both members Eugene and Paul have strong ties to the country having either been born there or lived there for a long time. They have also toured the country and region extensively. Vocalist Eugene has a distinctive accent when he sings, which gives the album its character.

The music is very hard to pinpoint exactly, but it balances somewhere on a tightrope between electronic goth dance like Anne Clark, dark ritualistic music, dark action movie music, and absolute self-minded avantgarde art rock. The main atmosphere is quite bleak, but there is also room to dance, to ponder, and most of the songs are actually quite catchy.

Glass is a unique experience, and an album with a strong urgency and feel for current times. Adventurous minds are highly recommended to take a peek…

Once again, I had the pleasure of talking to Paul and Eugene. I just had to ask them about Glass and the connection to current events. This is what they said:

-The album feels strongly like a concept album, can you describe what glass, and especially the breaking of glass represents for you? What is the overall feeling you got when creating the album?

Paul: The concept for Glass came after we created Something Broke Inside. In this song we used a breaking glass sound that we had recorded while smashing a bottle on a stone floor. The concept of shattered glass fragments came to represent Eugene’s story of struggling to survive, heal and thrive. 

Eugene: Glass is a human’s life and self shattered into shards. Every song on the album is a different story and like another razor-sharp shard of glass.

Each track is saturated with different, sometimes contradictory, feelings. But the general background could be described with the words (translated by us) of the Ukrainian poet Vasyl Stus:

You were raised on rage. Now

You won’t find peace from it,

It will grow and grow, until

The prison doors fall.

I feel like his words echo the lines from the last song of the album Spell. This incantation is the essence of protection and solidarity, glorifying the survivors of state persecution, war, famine, severe trauma, repression, and other forms of ghastly suffering:

Not to burn in the fire

Nor freeze in the chill

Nor be soaked in the rain

Nor lost in the fog

To see in the dark

Like a bird take flight

And not to die.

-Having strong ties to The Ukraine, I can imagine you have strong feelings about the invasion and the ongoing war, what have been your experiences so far? Do you have a lot of contact with people there still?

Paul: I have been in contact daily with a number of friends and have been emotional very involved. I got up at 5am every day to check my messages to see if everyone was alive. Sometimes it’s hard to find the words to reply to people who are literally sheltering from bombs. I have been following the travels of my friends who have left the country or have been internally displaced. I try to be as much help and encouragement as I can. My friends asked me to be on watch for them because there was fighting very close to their house. We agreed they would contact me at 12 noon every day. If they didn’t contact me I had a list of emergency numbers to call so I could tell rescuers where they are located and how many people are there. Thankfully they are in a safer place now, but they had to evacuate from their home and move to another part of the country.

Eugene: I have family and friends in Ukraine. Some of them are refugees now and some are still in Ukraine and their towns are being bombed right now. One photographer that took photos of LGBTQ and anarchist protest actions that I attended in Kyiv was recently killed by Russians. I was devastated back in 2014 when Russia first attacked Ukraine and I expected that they would go further but of course I always hoped that it wouldn’t happen so this was the most terrible news for me and I feel like all my life has changed since. It’s especially painful to see photos of what was once dear to you totally destroyed and awful images of mutilated civilians, and hear about mass raping of women and children.

-Personally it mostly made me feel very helpless. Do you have any suggestions what people should do that would be helpful to the situation? 

Paul: First of all, I would like to say not to make things worse. I have seen people spreading slander and propaganda against Ukrainians. I will never forgive them for that. Ukrainians often felt abandoned by the whole world and even now when there has been a lot of media coverage they are still fighting alone against the Russian invasion. They need NATO to close the sky over Ukraine or at least aircraft to defend themselves, and this is what they are asking for constantly. 

Eugene: Ukrainians are fighting fiercely and they can’t lose. But it’s at a great cost and there is a possibility that Russia could also attack other bordering countries, so I agree with Paul. And the world definitely needs to put tougher sanctions on Russia, otherwise we can expect worldwide terrorism connected to energy dependence on Russia who are trying to reach their imperialist goals threatening the world with nuclear weapons. 

-Will the conflict (War-ed.) have a great influence on yourselves as a person or on the band as a vehicle for your feelings and thoughts?

Paul: It has definitely changed things. There has been a long shadow looming for sometime but still I never expected the scale of what happened or the amount of indiscriminate war crimes by Russian soldiers against civilians and soldiers alike. A lot of people in UK have shown their solidarity with Ukraine but many surprisingly haven’t and there has also been a lot of propaganda directed against Ukrainians. I was also shocked by both the lack of reaction and total lack of empathy from Russians and by how many actually wholeheartedly support the destruction of Ukraine. After this it isn’t possible to just go back to how things were. It really made me realise who my friends are.

Eugene: It’s a war, not a conflict. In a conflict there is equal responsibility between the two parties involved. But there is only one outside aggressor and it’s Russia. Protest against Russian imperialism and genocide of Ukrainians has always been integral to our music. I wrote poetry against Russian imperialism from ten years old. We searched for witnesses and interviewed Ukrainians who were in Gulags. After and because of one of these interviews tAngerinecAt was born. Also there are a lot witnesses from my family. So, it’s always been something very personal for me and it is a central theme to all our creations. Unfortunately, I didn’t find much solidarity in the UK, and this speaks of how little people know about the part of the world where I was born and raised and we need the voices of Ukrainians to finally be heard. Of course, isolation, lack of solidarity, silencing and even hate on the grounds of my nationality lead to re-traumatization and this made our music even «darker». Despite all the tracks on Glass being written before the full scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, it could be called a prelude to the catastrophe that we now face and in some way a prediction of it. There is a track called Hereafter. It has a more global context but was produced recently under the shadow of feelings about impending war. We wanted to call it Forthcoming originally.

Eugene Purpurovsky and Paul Chilton

Hidden Fortress- The Blue Journey Into-Long Forgotten Sands (2022, self-released)

There are two things about this release by Hidden Fortress that made me crawl out of my smelly cave of procrastination and write this little review; its charming lo-fi musical sound, and the absolute beauty of the painting that is its artwork. It’s this fascinating psychedelic Van Gogh-like sunset on the cover that drew me in, it’s the sympathetic two-man psycho kraut boogie that made me stay.

Hidden Fortress are two guys from Charleston, South Carolina; Raphael Landauer on drums, and Graham Romero on everything else. As a band Hidden Fortress churns out short but sweet EPs, no fewer than four of them last year. The Blue Journey Into Long- Forgotten Sands is the first one in 2022, and it shows a slowburning, jamming side to their music. Each song is well over fifteen minutes long, and basically consists of a lazy bassloop, factory style motorik drums, and Romero laying down some laidback vocals or noodling solos on his guitar.

The recording is pretty much bedroom style and pretty dry, but all of the instruments sound ace, and the whole thing oozes a laidback vibe that would be exactly just like it would when you closed your eyes and these dudes would play in your living room. It made me hungry for another jam session some day soon…who knows? Maybe even this year?

Graham Romero

Review + Q&A: Kevin- Aftermath (2022, Riot Season Records)

Who is up for me some noisy Can-inspired jamming with heavy angular riffing and some guy yelling gibberish on top? All of you, right?! Right!???

Good, because KEVIN from Japan is here to give it to you.

Heavily inspired by Damo Suzuki era Can, and his extraterrestrial vocal delivery, these three gentlemen definitely got their Kraut stomp going on correctly. On top of that, they have a righteous type of noise thing going on, and they don’t ever shy away from being genuinely weird and impossible to pigeonhole.

Better check that jazz out for yourselves!

I had the honor to talk with drummer Yuichi Umemoto from the band, who did a great job answering my questions…

How are you doing? Can you tell me how the past couple of years have been for you as musicians in Japan? 

Due to COVID-19 and other factors, the days spent only in the confines of Japan were tedious. We wanted our music to cross borders and reach people all over the world as soon as possible. That’s why we worked hard every day on our live shows and songwriting. We are grateful that we are finally able to release our album to the world now.

Can you tell me about how Kevin was formed? And -most intriguingly- what does the band name stand for?

At first, four of us were invited by a friend to form a band. One of the songs we wrote at the time was called ‘Kevin’ and we named the band after that song.Over time, due to musical differences, the bass player left the band, and in January this year the vocalist also left the band, so we are now a two-piece with guitar vocals and drums.

How did you decide on your sound? What were your inspirations for the “Kevin” sound? 

The first thing that struck us was German music(krautrock). We were shocked by Can amongst others. Their human, dry, somewhat explosive beats shocked us. We took the explosive guitar sound of  Kawabata Makoto(Acid Mothers Temple) and combined it with an unprecedented ‘stillness’ and ‘movement’, which is the starting point of our music.
Kawabata is from Osaka like us, so we have seen him live many times and performed with him. He was also a big influence on us.

What are your musical backgrounds? How did you “grow up” on music as a musician and music fan?

We are brothers and we both learnt piano in primary school. That was our first exposure to music. It still helps us to this day. From there, we were exposed to various kinds of music, such as video game music and J-POP, which was popular in the early 2000s, over time. When we were in high school, we traced our roots to hard rock, heavy metal and punk rock, and when we formed a band and started performing live, we encountered psychedelic and jazz, which gave us an unprecedented shock, which is probably the source of our music today. We like any genre as long as it feels good to listen to.

Can you tell me about the role of the vocals in Kevin? I don’t understand a word of it, so any offered context would be very helpful of course 🙂

The vocals on this album have no lyrics. They were improvised and recorded. We hope you will listen to his voice as one sound or imagine what he is saying.

Do you feel part of a “scene” in Osaka/Japan? Are there likeminded artists you like to play with? Is there a club scene with regular shows, etc?

We feel part of the underground scene in Osaka.There is a live music club ‘BEARS’ in Osaka and ‘HELLUVA LOUNGE’ in Kobe. Mainly underground bands from Osaka play there, and we often play there. We play there with HIBUSHIBIRE, Mainliner and others.

What is your main inspiration to do what you do as an artist and release records?

We try to play what we like, the way we like it, without being restricted by genres or boundaries. We are happy if our live performances and records awaken something dormant in people all over the world.

What are your short term and long term goals for Kevin?

The short-term goal is to leave Japan as soon as possible and perform abroad. The long-term goal is to keep making good music and playing good gigs. This is more of a lifetime than a long-term goal.

Anything you’d like to add?

Thank you for reading.Please come see Kevin’s gig.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do exactly after this interview? 

Please listen to our records and come to our live shows.

Studio Report: Giöbia

Sometimes you just have to be bold. So when I saw my Facebook friend Melissa Crema was in the studio with her band (and one of my personal favorites) Giöbia, I couldn’t help contacting her. She has been the driving force of these Italians behind the keyboard, and to my absolute delight she was willing to answer my questions and even add some pictures. The result is a cool “look over the shoulder” of these great psych artists while they do their thing recording the new album and unveiling some details about one of the albums I most look forward to in 2023…

Hi guys, how have you been this pandemic period?

Even though the last two years of pandemic have been very stressful because of the lack of gigs, we managed to take advantage of the bad situation to work on new songs, so that our upcoming album will be ready to be released next year. On October last year we also released a split album with The Cosmic Dead on Heavy Psych Sounds. We have never stopped making music and we can say most of the time music gave us the strength to go on.

Melissa Crema in the studio

What are the current studio plans? Is everything written? Do you leave room for improv?

We are currently finalizing the new album recordings in our third studio session. For what concerns the songs we have composed and worked on so far, we have already recorded drums, guitars, bass and organs, so right now only the vocals are missing before having everything properly set for mixing. By the way, like we did in our last albums with the songs Heart of Stone and Sun Spectre, the upcoming one as well will feature some studio improvisations. We do have a natural inclination to jam, it is something we really love to do. Besides the recordings, recently we have received several proposals for gigs and festivals, so now we are focusing both on the new songs and the rehearsals in order to hit the road soon.

Melissa Crema recording

Is there a big difference in writing and recording compared to your last record Plasmatic Idol?

One of the differences between the previous albums and the upcoming one is that now we are recording in a new studio, called Elfo Studio, based in Piacenza, Italy. We are working closely with a very competent technical staff which has been helping us to make the most of our instruments and gear. We are really happy about this and satisfied with the sound of the songs we are working on. Unlike “Plasmatic Idol” the new album will sound rawer, I mean less sophisticated and more straightforward, so that the songs will be very impactful for the listener.

Drummer Pietro D’ambrosio recording

What are the lyrical themes?

The lyrics reflect the strange period we have been living, with all the frustration it brought into our lives so far. We are used to put in music our feelings and this is what we did this time too – disorientation and confusion may blur vision, but they may also be inspiring somehow. The listeners who sharpen their ears will also notice some references to the war in our songs, being that we could not remain indifferent to the what is happening in Ukraine and our hearts ache for all those who are involved.

The band in the studio

Around what time is the album going to be finished? And which label will it be on?

We plan to finalize the new album before summer and to release it at the beginning of 2023 on Heavy Psych Sounds. It is still too early to unveil the precise date, however you will hear from us soon… stay tuned 🙂

What are your plans after recording? What is your ultimate goal for Giöbia?

Our ultimate goal is to leave a lasting mark with our music, which is our lifeblood. Our priority and what we care most about besides the recordings is to start playing again like we did before the pandemic, touring abroad and meeting old and new fans and friends. We miss the contact with people and standing on the stage in front of the crowd – that’s a unique and invaluable feeling. Our next stops will be Sideral Fest, Heavy Psych Sounds Fests in Winterthur and Salzburg, Volcano Sessions and Saalepartie. Please come and join us!

Guitarist Stefano Basurto recording

Any other projects you’re working on?

Another project we are working on is La Morte Viene Dallo Spazio. The guitar player and I we also play in this band with which we released our second album called Trivial Visions on Svart Records in March 2021, in the middle of the pandemic. We can say Giöbia and La Morte Viene Dallo Spazio run on two parallel tracks, as with this band as well we are recording the new album and getting ready for several gigs and festivals.

Instrumental Triple feature: Noorvik vs. Der Neue Planet vs. Trigona (2022, Tonzonen Records/Echodelick Records, Worst Bassist Records)

Last time when I talked about instrumental music I discovered the German outfits Kombynat Robotron and Shem and did a double feature. Then Tonzonen Records and Echodelick Records sent me these instrumental records and I told myself it was time to do it again, but tripled this time. For instrumental music is a different kind of animal. It leaves something to be filled in at the dots for the listener. And it often invites its audience to dive into their minds, or out, which makes for a completely different listening experience than with their more, ahem, “vocal” brethren…

Der Neue Planet (The new planet in German) are an instrumental stoner prog band that takes full advantage of the fact that they don’t have to bother about stuff like verses or choruses, rhymes, or repetition. Opener Heavy Dream Prog describes their sound quite aptly in a song that shoots back and forth from heavy stoner walls to chilled out dungeon jazz, to stoner disco and everything in between in a near ten minute journey. It’s seriously heavy music, but there is room for tongue in cheek humor too, just like on their album title and cartoonish artwork. Area Fifty-Fun is exactly that; it’s a heavy psychedelic fun trip that rides like an amusement park.

Noorvik are the heavy brothers of this triplet. The music on Hamartia is serious, epic, and leans pretty close to metal at times, from massive doomed out postmetal, to more uptempo riffage and even a couple of blast beat volleys. If you picture a singer like Michael Akerfeldt fronting this band with a good deep grunt they would actually do a pretty good oldschool Opeth/Katatonia crossbreed.

Now, without human voice, the music forces you to use your own imagination for the imagery. The music becomes a painter’s palette picturing vast glacial landscapes, tall and impenetrable mountain ranges, but also peaceful ponds of calmness and serenity. Noorvik are a force of nature, conjuring up the rawness and beauty of our planet quite vividly.

The only non-German band that I will talk about here actually plays the most kraut oriented music of the three, and starts off with a song called Von Graf…but that’s pure coincidence of course. Trigona from Australia does motorik instrumentals like they were born somewhere between the 80s of Neu! and the 90s of bands like Karma To Burn with a sound that holds a pretty good middle ground between the motorik repetition of krautrock and the heaviness of stoner.

The strength of the album is that each song swirls away in a different inner mindset, taking the listener on six completely different trips, but without losing a strong band identity. I like it best when Trigona pumps out a Joy Division bass line, and then completely drives it into outer space with its gravitational reverbing guitar parts. It’s transcendental music, made for levitation and rising above the daily grind. Stuff to aspire to.

Review + Q&A: Ambassador Hazy- The Traveler (2022, Cardinal Fuzz/Hazy House)

On his second album of home made trippy lo-fi fuzz, Sterling DeWeese AKA Ambassador Hazy once again proves he has a whole band in him. His jingly/jangly tunes feature acoustic guitar, fuzzy solos, distorted keyboards, and his characteristic vocals that walk the thin line between insecure and lazy in an undeniably sympathetic way.

It’s music that lets it all hang loose, in proper Velvet Underground fashion, but with a distinctive smelly attic vibe that is definitely not as cool, but all the more cosy and comfortable. Like that ugly rug you kind of need to throw out, but you won’t because of all the memories and because it ties the room together. Yeah, it’s proper “dude” music.

The Traveller isn’t in any way cartoon character goofy though, there are some serious undertones flowing through these tunes. They are just being dealt with in a very laidback, hazy way. And if you don’t like that, well, that’s just your opinion man…

I talked with the dude Sterling Deweese himself, and this is what he said:

Hi Sterling, how are you? How have you been these past pandemic years?

I’m very well thank you.  All things considered, it hasn’t been so bad. My family is healthy and I managed to make a couple of records.

So, this may be a weird question; but are you named after the drum part? And do you use it?

When I played in Heavy Hands our old Slingerland kit did use to to have those heads on it. The guys took to calling me that or just Hazy due to certain habits of consumption that might have given me a bit of brain fog.

How do you usually spend your day?

By day I work doing architecture and design.  

How does music fit in your life usually?

Usually it fits in wherever I can find time which can be complicated between work and family life.  Most often I’m working on music when my wife is out of town on business and my son is asleep (well upstairs supposed to be asleep), so that makes the time I do have limited and I usually get right down to business and try and get something going.

Ambassador Hazy is purely a solo project, right? How come you don’t work together anymore? 

I’ve been recording at home for many years on a 1/2″ 8 track so I have piles of old stuff – but most of it is more in the way of demos that were recorded while I was playing in other bands as a way to develop material.  Eventually the tape machine stopped working, and this coincided with a period where I got married and had a kid so there was 5 or 6 years there where I was pretty much entirely dormant and not doing music.  Then one day I decided it was time to get back at it and I spent some months finding the right guy to service the machine (long story).  And I built out a small studio in my basement, bought some new toys to equip it and then I started making some noise again.  Initially I tried to get together some guys for a band but it was always complicated to schedule and pretty erratic but we did do some stuff which you can hear on the first Hazy record.  For the new record The Traveler it is entirely a solo endeavor as it wasn’t really possible to collaborate in a airless little basement room due to the pandemic.   I have finished a third solo record as well recently and that will probably see the light of day in about another year given the long lead times for pressing etc.

What is your goal with Ambassador Hazy?

 The goal is to make cool music – and just get lost in it. It’s definitely a sort of escapism from the mundane everyday life.   

What are lyrics to you? Do you tend to overthink them or are they rather more of an afterthought? How do they form in your head?

Typically I don’t start with the lyrics, it’s usually something that comes in after there is already some flesh on the bones of the song.   I do try and structure things so there’s a space for the lyrics but rarely do I start there.  I think the only song that was done in a more “traditional” style and written on an acoustic guitar with a lyric already in place was Gone to My Head.   All the other tunes are layered up where I start with one idea or riff and go from there.  When writing lyrics I usually try to do it in a naturalistic way so I’m not overthinking them and usually it’s something that happens very fast and I prefer not to do a lot of takes.  Keep in mind I’m working on tape so most of these takes are straight through and not edited in little bits and pieces. I prefer the song to feel like it was done live.  Some songs are basically improvised around an idea or a phrase and if I like what I get I’ll just leave it, other times I will spend a bit more time composing, but I don’t usually ever get past 2 or 3 verses.

What have your influences and inspirations been as a solo artist? 

Mostly on the turntable at home I am still stuck in the 60’s and 70’s or even earlier (lots of country blues etc).  Also lately I have been revisiting the music of my teenage years; Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, Jesus and Mary Chain etc.  Though I would say one of the great things about doing these records has been getting exposed to a lot of great contemporary artists thanks to all the heads out there running great labels and doing radio shows.  

Will Ambassador Hazy change a lot in a post corona world? Will there be live shows/a band/etc?

I think Hazy will probably remain a studio project, though I would like to start collaborating again.  As far as doing a live band I don’t know that it’s in the cards just yet, but who knows what the future may bring.   

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do immediately after this interview?

Roll a number.  Pop on some headphones and listen to a few numbers from my new record.  And, of course, please buy a record. 

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