Al Lover- Cosmic Joke (2022, Fuzz Club Records)

Wrapping your head around this new Al Lover album might take some time. If only because of the many jigsaw pieces of interesting influences you have to put into the right place in your brain. Take the album title for instance, is it a reference to Klaus Schulze’s (RIP) band The Cosmic Jokers? It could very well be, the music does pay hommage to the old krautrock masters of the 70s. And at the same time it implements all kinds of other styles and flavors to the mix.

The rhythmic textures of this instrumental soup are definitely more triphop related, at times summoning images of DJ Shadow at his most trippy. The reverb drenched keyboards tell a different tale though, being more in line with the hippy artwork and the acidic imagery with its colors and many eyes. Al Lover is more of a DJ than a “band” in any traditional sense. He performs by himself with his set and many buttons and bleeps, often aided by trippy visuals playing tricks on your senses in the back. Then again, weren’t Moebius and Roedelius of Cluster proto DJs in their own right back in the day? Weren’t Neu!? They’re definitely also referenced on this album, while at the same time music like this wouldn’t be out of place in one of the more progressive hip bars on sunny vacation islands either.

You see why it is such a trip for anyone to fully wrap their heads around Cosmic Joke. Maybe that’s the beauty of it in the end; no matter how hard you try to cross reference it with something you might know or think you know, it will still be able to sound surprising and make you conjure up new and weird images you did not know you had in you. It’s potent stuff, and highly recommended for your head.

Al Lover, live

Helms Alee- Keep This Be The Way (2022, Sargent House Records)

Oh Helms Alee, poor, stubborn, self-minded Helms Alee. Always pushing the envelope, always drifting, always changing. Always pissing off the people that thought they were part of the -insert pigeonhole- gang. Not sludge enough, not indie enough, not doom enough. And meanwhile making incredible music, as if they invented the catch phrase “genre defying”, always pushing further, always thrusting ahead. Boggling people’s minds. Never selling out, neither commercially or literally.

Keep This Be The Way is the band’s sixth album already. Of course we still know this band from their Hydra Head days, and that they feature former Harkonen hero Ben Verellen, but we almost forget that it has been over 14 years since, and that the meanwhile Helms Alee has developed from an aggressive metallic sludge band into its own beast, with a sound ranging from sweet dream pop to heavy riffing and yelling and everything in between. The term “progressive” does not quite cut it, but they are undeniably forward thinking and without any regard for labels or genres.

If you know, you know, you know? Personally, I would highly recommend their entire discography if you don’t, but Keep This Be The Way is as good as any place to start, really. And if you are in the Helms Alee circle of trust, it feels like being part of some secret whiskey distillery cult. Let them be acquired taste or bermuda triangle for most of the human population, we know better.

Helms Alee

Jeff Gburek- Vigilance Suite I&II (2022, Ramble Records)

I could have written a long and winding piece about why you should listen to Jeff Gburek’s new double album of fantastic accoustic guitar noodlings, but I won’t because he is perfectly capable of doing that himself. I will grant him my Weirdo Shrine podium though, as the cause and muse of his work is a noble one, and of course because the music in its context is very worthy of your time. Here is what Jeff wrote on his Bandcamp about it:

Music played privately at home doesn’t count as much as humanitarian aid, on the ground, where events are scattering lives — but making these tracks was one of the ways I began to weather the storm, when one of my homelands went under military siege.

It was over a century ago my ancestors on my mother’s side left regions within and near Ukraine to come to the USA, perhaps as refugees of some similar conflict. Vigilance Suites were recorded on February 24, 25 and February 28 and March 1, 2022. I used a slightly drop-tuned acoustic guitar in open D tuning, zither, e-bow various preparations over the course of time to represent shifts of mood and transformations of mind.

The colorful rag doll depicted on the CD disc is called a Motanka. I bought it in a market in Lviv, Ukraine in 2015. It reminded me of Hopi Kachinas, Voodoo figurines and Roma magic-spell fetishes. Motanki are hand-made, using scraps of cloth or discarded clothing of relatives.The use of needles, scissors or machines, is forbidden. Motanka is a composition of energy and substances inside can be coins, herbs, grain, intentionally charged. They are house-guardians and they represent the healing properties of plants, seasonal and nature spirits. The cross on the face represents the sun. Motanki links us back to the ancient Pagan and animist cultures of the people who live in the Transcarpathian regions.The Motanka set upon the background of the traditional pattern of head scarf from Ukraine represents the folk culture of the people.

This music, born out of the time of reflection, waiting for news, perhaps carries the hopes, fears, perhaps within its imagery some of the brokenness being transmuted into sound, as struggling distant friends endure these trials, these ups and downs, the outrage and the sense of rebound, the sense of loss, displacement, bewilderment.

Many thanks to Michael Sill (Ramble Records-ed) for offering to release these works.

War is the polar opposite of vitamin D, low in nutritional value, hard on the eyes, even at a distance, the kids look like they will start smoking at an early age. Do we have leaders or bleeders? I don’t really want to go anywhere. Can the volume of gunpowder be lower. My thoughts about it remain maladjusted. Perhaps I am slightly more sane when asleep. It’s getting more difficult to write letters starting out of with how are you or what’s up. First you whistle then you duck. People stop on the bridge. People are looking at one another with eyes asking from where do you come.

Only now has ceased to exist. Retinal linkages acknowledge infinite regressive passage over this scroll of enzyme-grammar. It would be easier to survive as a simpler form of life. It is too much to deal with here. Unless it ends, soon, suddenly. All those children of the bloodlands wandering now as living ghosts, perfect mirror, for I, who lived as a shadow all these years, no I at all, just outline, a man sunken somewhere behind the shade.

There are no large bottles of water in the supermarket. The whole half-aisle where they keep bottled water is an empty palette ghost town. Something starts to snap. Inside. Many new faces in the streets. I couldn’t find AA batteries. Sudden sense of confusion and the voice inside says you don’t need any batteries.

Indeed, I did buy 3 extra sets a few days ago but now not being able to see any where they used to be starts to bother me. Like somebody cut down a tree whose shade you once enjoyed or whose strength and tenacity you admired. Something comes a bit more unhinged. When I go out I see the Sinti family with their shopping cart piled high. But this is normal. Thank god something is normal. Walking out of the shop I tear off my mask and I wonder how ironic the empire of the mask may just be coming to an end.

Walking down the street I pass the Ukrainski Smak Pierogarnia and glance at the women — they have the kitchen with an open window, so you can always seem them at work, rolling, pounding, folding the dough on the floured long tables. It’s at the door to the restaurant part, the small, traditionally minimalist “bar mleczny”, it’s there I see the sign-board, not a menu, but a long list of words in Polish that are mostly unknown still to me, but the known part tells me clearly it’s a long list of supplies, medical and otherwise, being collected to take to their people.

That’s where I kind of lose it for the first time, something goes out from beneath my feet and I stagger to the wall. That distance that separated the war “over there” from us in our reality over here was suddenly removed. Let’s call it a quantum entanglement. A missile struck me.

Jeff Gburek 

Cave In- Heavy Pendulum (2022, Relapse Records)

After the tragic death of bassist and (in my humble opinion) best death growl this side of modern hardcore Caleb Scofield in 2018 I never thought there would be another Cave In album, let alone one I would every fully enjoy as much as when he was still in it. And yet, here is Heavy Pendulum, and it rules. In stead of the mournful and heavy melancholic doom epitaph album you might expect, it is a jubilant celebration of everything Cave In was, is and will be. It soars, rocks, hooks, and shakes its audience, screaming to them and themselves that this wat they were meant to to as musicians, and that Caleb would not have wanted it any other way.

Instrumental to the reinvigoration of Cave In’s sound is Scofield’s old friend and band mate in Old Man Gloom Nate Newton (Converge, Doomriders), who brings his unmistakable ruggedness to the table to fire up the Cave In engine. His rough vocals don’t match Scofield’s in depth and ferociousness, but they do compensate with hardcore urgency and sheer aggression. I honestly don’t think there could not have been anyone to do this job any better. His strong ties to the band and Scofield all breathe a deep and sincere respect for him, his music, and his legacy. And he also brings his background with him into the sound, adding hints of Doomriders’ rock ’n roll energy, as well as Converge’s out-of-the box metallic hardcore genius.

All good intentions, new found energy, and respectful legacy aside, Heavy Pendulum mostly is an excellent album simply because it IS. It has a couple of Cave In’s best songs to date (New Reality, Blood Spiller, Careless Offering, Nightmare Eyes) and it is a balanced record from first to last, ending with a mighty doomed out tombstone through Wavering Angel, a song that encapsulates true loss in such a goddamned heavy and progressive artistic way only Cave In ever could. It’s a goosebump inducing eulogy to their friend and soulmate;

Wavering angel
Cling to your wing
Let yourself fly
Wavering angel
Cling to your wing
Let yourself fly
Let yourself fly, yeah

Floating, floating untethered
Light as, light as a feather
Heavy, heavy wet weather
Twisting, turn to the never

Wavering angel
Wavering angel
Wavering angel
Wavering angel

What happened to us, my friend?
What happened to us, my friend?
What happened to us, my friend?
What happened to us, my friend?

Zone Six- Beautiful EP (re-release 2022. Sulatron Records)

A long time ago, in December 1997 to be precise, a couple of gifted musicians found each other and started jamming. They jammed for hours and hours, and decided that they would name themselves Zone Six. At that time the band consisted of a couple of ex-Liquid Vision members (Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, Hans-Peter Ringholz, and Claus Bühler), a keyboard player named Rusty, and an amazing female singer from Australia by the name of Jodi Barry. The EP pretty much revolves around her Portishead-like story telling, while the band anticipates and weaves its patterns of psychedelic triphop jamming.

The EP starts off with Something’s Missing, a mysteriously spiraling thing, that strangely resonates the lyrics “Beautiful” throughout its ten minute haze. Jodi Barry’s vocals are of a mystique subdued beauty that fits the mystery. The lyrics forbode the next song Beautiful, which is a twelve minute triphop piece revolving around Jodi Barry telling her creeped out story about Jack and Jill. It is quite a different piece to anything Zone Six did before or after, but that’s also the cool thing about it. It makes you wonder what this amazing vocalist did after Zone Six, apparently she moved back to Australia but I cannot find anything else…

I guess it is a fitting final mystery for this hazy little gem, which will be released on “beautiful” green vinyl by Sulatron Records. An obligatory buy for later krautrock completist to say the least.

Kaleidobolt- This One Simple Trick (2022, Svart Records)

Can’t help showing you this snippet I wrote about Kaleidobolt’s album The Zenith Cracks ages ago on the Bearded Gentlemen Blog:

From Finland hails the awesomely monikered Kaleidobolt. On their second album The Zenith Cracks they prove to be an excellent jam band, conjuring the spirit of ‘70’s rock bands like Thin Lizzy and Blue Cheer while having absolutely no regard for songwriting rules or sense of time in general. What makes their sound so recommendable is its grittiness, the feeling of being surrounded by angry hobos that have accused you of stealing their meth. A band like Bison BC is similar in this respect, only Kaleidobolt are less heavy and more expansive in their approach. Hobo psych rock jam extravaganza. A perfect soundtrack for getting “strunk”, or whatever your mates call it when your stoned and drunk at the same time.

Plenty of hardworking and hard touring years, another album (Bitter), and a couple of rounds on the grindstone called life later and Kaleidobolt present their latest version of themselves: This One Simple Trick. It is a nice and composed work, still featuring some of their wild hairs, but definitely also turning into more accessible grounds and perhaps even opening up completely new markets for these Finns.

Album opener Fantastic Corps still storms out of the gate like some fuzzed up pack of Hellacoptered wolves. First single I Should Be Running is a completely different ballgame though, with a catchy chorus and gradual built-up towards ferocity near the end. It is a song that might have been written by a bigger band like The Black Keys, if they worked out more and weren’t so stuck up their own backsides.

Open mindedness and pure rock ’n roll joy is key here, as the record jumps up and down from surf rock to psychedelic twirls, always with heavy sixties feels. The heavy fuzzed out bass and pounding drums are pushing the album towards the present, and it is also worth noting that while the songs are a pretty varied bunch of daffodils, they all have a very definable Kaleidobolt stamp.

Here is a “stoner” band that dares to defy the mold, while maintaining the fuzzy heaviness, they explore different nooks and crannies in the rock ’n roll spectrum. Weirdo Shrine notices and applauds this. Let’s see how the European crowds respond…


Review + Q&A: Haress- Ghosts (2022, Wrong Speed Records)

Wrong Speed Records is a very interesting and relatively new record label from the UK, established by Joe Thompson, who you might also know as the bass player in Hey Colossus. It appears he has an exquisite and very wide taste in music, and Haress from Wales are the latest formidable example thereof.

When you close your eyes and listen to Ghosts, you can almost hear the morning mist crawling over the green Welsh fields, a river streaming nearby, the gentle tranquility and subtle excitement of another dawn in the countryside. The music is gentle, with explorative guitar parts, sparse and ephemeral vocals, a hint of folk in the bass lines, and other more experimental musical instruments that add to this atmosphere.

It harks back to the earliest of postrock days and the youthful naivety of Slint’s Spiderland. It’s dreamier than that iconic album though, and in its folkier and quieter parts it also reminds of a very different Slint affiliate; Will Oldham, and his Superwolf colab with Matt Sweeney in particular. It’s sleepy music, but it keeps you on the edge of your seat. Having cited these 90s influences, it is perhaps cool to mention that Lungfish’s Nathan Bell also added a bit of trumpet to the album.

Personally, I fell deeply in love with Ghosts. There is something about the guitar tone, the pace of the music, and the general tranquility that completely connected with me on a level that I cannot really put into the right words, and will therefore stop trying. Better to see if it connects with you in the same way…

I had loads of question for this enigmatic music group, which luckily Dave and Elizabeth (main people in the band) answered all kind of together as one person,  except question seven, which Thomas the vocalist answered…

Hi guys, how have you been these past pandemic years?

We were lucky we kept our heads above water, lockdown in the countryside was like a quieter version of an already quiet place.  Although it was a bad time there were many positives –

it was a treat to have some time, to be together with our daughter, I (Liz) collaborated and recorded a remote album with Dominic Plucknett from Van Coeur ) and Haress got to do a Black Sabbath cover for the Supersonic online festival ).

Can you introduce Haress? When did you meet each other and how did you start a band?

Hello, this is Elizabeth Still and David Hand.  We met each other through playing in a band called Red Panda many moons ago. Haress was formed out of necessity as the drummer from our previous band (Black Octagon – ) was becoming a parent plus there were location logistics etc etc

We decided to do a band that meant we didn’t have to rely on anyone outside of the two of us and where we could practice from home – try and make it easy.  

We first expanded the band when we played at our festival called Sineater in 2016 ( ) when Chris Summerlin (Hey Colossus, Kogumaza) and Pete Simonelli (Enablers) joined us on stage, it was a great thing to discover we could successfully and quite easily expand and diversify.

The heart of Haress is us as a duo, we mostly write the tracks so they can be performed that way. When we expand the band it becomes something different.

For the first record and Ghosts, Haress expands to include Chris on guitar, David Smyth (Kling Klang, Mind Mountain) on drums and Thomas House (Sweet Williams, Charlottefield) on vocal.  They also feature Nathan Bell (Lungfish, Human Bell).

I love the way “Ghosts” sounds! How did you decide on your sound? Is it a naturally evolving thing, or a very conscious result of planned decisions?

For Ghosts many of the tracks were quite new and hadn’t been played live. So this was an evolution. We were staying at Erbistock Mill (a disused water mill in Wales) so it was quite an intense process. Some things turned out very different to how we thought- but that’s the joy of collaborating with other musicians . Now the tracks can exist in different forms – we like that.

Can you tell me where Haress is from? Somehow I picture a rural surroundings…are you inspired by nature at all?

Haress are from a town called Bishop’s Castle in Shropshire, right on the Welsh border: glorious countryside and a pretty remote little town, very much the rural setting you picture. We have lived here for nearly 14 years and then amazingly David and Chris have just moved here as well, which is great. Thomas currently lives in Zaragoza in Spain.

We’re totally inspired by nature, I’d say it was impossible to not be (living where we do) but nature has been a lifelong love. 

Can you tell me how you make music together? When do you decide when a song is a song? 

It’s usually the result of the interplay of our 2 guitars, often acoustic, often in the house, that then get shifted to electric at some point. Then we will try playing them live and this usually gives you a good idea if it’s ready yet. With the ‘big band’ version it’s usually an expansion of the 2 guitar parts – although while recording Ghosts there were full-on band collaborations from the ground up.

Can you tell me about the collaborations with other musicians on the album? 

This record (like the first LP) has our friend Nathan Bell playing on it. We once put out a solo record of Nathan’s years ago ) and have played shows and toured with him over the years. He played trumpet on stage with Black Octagon once and I guess that sowed the seeds for a future recording. This record he went an extra step and came up with this crazy throat singing part as well! Sounds amazing.

Dave (Smyth) plays drums so emotively for us, knowing when to hold back in the arrangement and when to bring the heavy weight! 

Chris brings wizardry, expertly punctuating, creating texture and unexpected joys with guitar and Echoplex and unending knowledge.

Thomas‘ vocal happened remotely as well. We talk about it a bit but Tom sings on the tracks he chooses to. It brings a seismic dimensional shift to the band and the record.

What are your greatest inspirations for the lyrics? 

Thomas: The music, and what I know of where it comes from. I wait for stories and images that I think fit the feeling and intention, and then I expand on those or chip away at them until they’re what they should be.

What is your goal for Haress?

I guess just keep doing it: more collaborations, play more places outside of the ’standard’ venue

Will you perform live, and when will you come visit me in the Netherlands 😉

We hope to perform live later in the year with the ‘Big Band’ and we would love to play in the Netherlands

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

Go outside

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