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.
Spring is in the air! You can smell the booming blossom on the trees, birds are singing songs like their lives depend on it (which is true, when you think about it), and the feeling of a new year and new hope are simmering through the world. Everybody knows spring is also volatile and flighty, those blossom flowers will be blown to the ground with the next strong gush of wind. Soon it will be summer, tanning those fresh green leaves and slowing all those newly invented plans down with its stifling heat.
But for now, let’s just enjoy The Strength Of Spring, its joy of life, its naive jumpiness. Los Angeles’ post-hippies Grave Flowers Bongo Band have really caught on with those sentiments and written a positively psychedelic album that is light-hearted but not frivolous, and an an album that is smart but not in a hipster way.
The nine songs within half an hour are over before you can say King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, a band whose tentacular riffage and galloping drums echo all around here. Grave Flowers Bongo band are centered around the acoustic guitar though, which gives them a much mellower edge. It also makes for a sturdy character that helps them stand out from the neo-psych crowd. It’s not hard to see why Thee Oh Sees’ John Dwyer picked them up.
The only deeply regrettable thing about The Strength Of Spring is that it, like spring itself, is much too short. Unlike the seasons we can put it on repeat though, and enjoy its joyful sounds to our hearts’ content.
I love a lot about the new Dope Purple album Grateful End, but perhaps the thing I hold most dear about it are the quiet parts. The hazy, bluesy meanderings at the start of songs that will later on most likely erupt into noisy psychout volcanoes. I love the way guitar feedback mimics dolphin sonar while the vocals wail unintelligible shamanic gibberish washed out with holy reverb.
There are four songs on Grateful End, opener My Evilness being my personal favorite. When you close your eyes you will be able to see the band standing quietly on a smoke filled stage, their long black hair waving in the warm summer breeze. The atmosphere is dense, the amount of smoke emanating from the stage drowns in the amount that steams from the audience below, and gradually building, a guitar starts setting itself on fire.
Cosmic Rock Is Not Dead is next, simply proving its point. It’s Dope Purple jamming, vocals wailing, and the over-distorted guitars swelling until breaking point, after which a mind-boggling hunt to the end of the song kicks the whole thing into orbit. Repeat it until it breaks seems to be the adagium, after which you can build up again and start anew.
The Last Days Of Humanity starts off with another one of those mesmerizing singing dolphin-ridden intros. It’s the beauty and quiet blues after the distortion blizzard that feels like such a holiday in the sun, you might want it to last forever. Alas, there is an apocalypse to catch! So onwards we fly, uptempo, distorted guitars gyrating into oblivion.
Album closer New Man brings on a strong Stooges vibe, with a heavy freakout stoner boogie that’ll get your feet tapping like a crazy person. It’s a short rager, like the band wanted to give a farewell salute and ending the album and the world with a big, ugly bang; even going full blast beat near the end. It’s a good way to end this enigmatic little record, an experience that leaves your mind sizzling and your ears ringing.
I had so many questions after listening to Grateful End on repeat for a bunch of rounds! Luckily band member and main composer K.P. Liu was friendly enough to provide some much needed context:
Hi Dope Purple! Can you please introduce yourself to the ignorant weirdoes out there? And how did you choose your name?
I’m K.P. Liu from Dope Purple. The following answers are my answers to your questions as a composer, which are mainly my personal thoughts and do not represent all members of Dope Purple. Dope Purple is a five-piece psychedelic rock band that started its activities in Taipei, Taiwan in 2016. The musicianship is influenced by Western Hard Rock and Japanese Noise Psychedelic Rock. The name Dope Purple fulfills all three criteria: one is easy to remember, the second is easy to understand the musicality from the name, and the third is to attract people’s attention. Our musicianship is mainly guitar solos, with speedy riffs, and a psychedelic freak out, so I thought the band would become a psychedelic noise rock version of Deep Purple, and I came up with this name. I also hope that old fans of 70’s rock will listen to our music, as well as young fans who have never heard of 70’s rock will listen to Deep Purple’s music.
How has this Covid year been for you as a band? What changed, what stayed the same?
Since the Taiwanese government’s response to Covid was successful, there was only a short period of time when live events were restricted in Taiwan, so fortunately there was no serious impact on the band’s live activities so far. However, because our recording engineer is Japanese, and the label and vinyl factory are all overseas, there was a lot of influence from the perspective of making the album.
You are from Taiwan, how has living and being a musician in your country influenced you musically?
Actually I (K.P. Liu) have roots in Japan and Taiwan, so my music is influenced by both Japan and Taiwan. In Japan I met Acid Mothers Temple, Hibushire, and other musicians in the underground rock scene, which formed my vision and know-how of Rock music. In Taiwan, I am more influenced by the noise musicians in Taiwan, which shaped my view on sound. I am a foreigner in both Japan and Taiwan, and because of this sense of isolation, I don’t want to make music that focuses on traditional culture or traditional music from one‘s own country, so Dope Purple tries to remove the obvious color of Orientalism. In terms of musicality, only the loud noise and chaos of our sound reflect the influence of Asian society on me.
I heard there is a “scene” where you live, can you tell me about it? Any bands or venues that are worth mentioning?
Taiwan’s scene is characterized by a relatively small population of musicians, so many of them play in other bands at the same time, so Taiwan’s scene looks like it has a number of bands, but the reality is that there are not that many musicians in the scene. In Dope Purple’s case, Jiun Chi (guitar) also plays in the psychedelic rock duo Mong Tong (https://gurugurubrain.space/collections/mong-tong), and Yunhao (synthesizer) plays in Afrobeat’s group Island Futurism (https://islandfuturism.bandcamp.com). Dope Purple usually plays in Taipei’s venue Revolver. The reason we play here is that the sound is better than other venues and we don’t have to pay a venue fee. Revolver basically accepts all types of musicians, it doesn’t seem to have its own “scene”, and We don’t often play with regular bands either, so it seems like Dope Purple doesn’t belong to any scenes of the Rock band. Also, there is a vinyl record store in Taipei called Senko Issha (we have released albums from there), and there are some awesome noise players here (please check out Senko Issha’s Bandcamp: https://senko-issha.bandcamp.com), and I personally interact with them quite often.
Can you tell me about the writing process for Grateful End? I reckon there was quite a bit of jamming involved? How much was “written” and how much was improvised?
Dope Purple’s “songs” are all written by me, but what I actually do is provide a basic riff to the band, and the rule of playing Dope Purple is that we mainly follow the riff and do whatever we want on it. In other words, Dope Purple only uses one or two steps per song, and each step is a refrain of a single riff, on which all the members improvise, so it’s all improvisation except for the riff and a few specific melodies. This is because we all hate to practice and memorize scores. The advantage of this approach is that we all play a regular “song”, but we can still improvise at the same time. I think this approach is probably closer to jazz improvisation. Because We improvise on all of our songs, so we use live recordings when we’re making the album. Grateful End also uses live recordings (we used two live recordings at Revolver), but the direction of Grateful End is to use live recordings to make a “studio” album, that is, we recorded with the sounds of each instrument, and then we added some work to the mix and mastering. so although the playing is completely based on live performance, it doesn’t sound like a live recording (especially the vinyl remix, in which I think the sounds become better than the CD, closer to the sound I originally intended). In other words, Dope Purple is doing live and recordings of every show.
I love the way the vocals were recorded, very savage-like 😉 Did you try anything special to record them this way?
Thanks, I was singing with Boss’ Reverb knobs set to maximum and then connected to the microphone.
What about the lyrical themes? Grateful End sounds a bit apocalyptic, is that the general idea? Is there a certain message you have to the world?
About the general idea, I wrote it on the Bandcamp page, please take a look. (https://riotseasonrecords.bandcamp.com/album/grateful-end)When I sing, I basically improvise, and although I sing some of the lyrics in Japanese, I don’t even know what I’m singing and the meaning. I think that behind my singing there is a “failure to communicate”. Because of language and cultural limitations, the loud sound of the instrument, I believe the lyrics are not properly understood by the audience. Therefore, I do not pay special attention to the “lyrics” with reason, but rather I believe that the ” shouting” with the feeling of a person transcends language, culture, and time and space. That’s why I write all the things I want to express in words on the Bandcamp page or FB page, not on the lyrics which can be easily misunderstood.
How did you came in contact with your label Riot Season? And what can you tell me about the WV Sorcerer label?
We didn’t contact Riot Season ourselves, it seems that Riot Season’s owner heard our recording somewhere and contacted us at the beginning of 2020, asking if we wanted to reissue the vinyl. Because we all love Riot Season’s work, we said yes immediately. (WV also joined the re-release of the vinyl later.） The owner of WV Sorcerer label is Ruotan, he is a Chinese living in France, he also makes noise music. In the past, he came to Taiwan to do live in Senko Issha, so I have a lot of mutual friends with him. Because of this he has the opportunity to hear our previous works released in Senko Issha, and We released Grateful End on CD and cassette from his label, WV Sorcerer mainly releases more experimental music of East Asia. I think the political situation in East Asia are not ideal for musicians, we really need the support of people like him.
What is your biggest dream for the future? And what are your immediate future plans?
The ultimate goal is to play Dope Purple until old age, and I want to achieve a certain kind of truth through playing music, The immediate future plans are to release a new album next year and to tour overseas after the epidemic is finished.
The cover of the new Motorpsycho record depicts mankind dead, covered in mushrooms, ready to be absorbed by nature and forgotten. We had our chance, we fucked up, we created this kingdom and will now slowly decay into oblivion. A harsh image, perhaps harsher then you might expect from these Norwegian progressive rock travellers, but then again, the planet is warming up, there is a pandemic going on, and it’s not like they haven’t warned us before…
Keep my sky blue//I know I need to//keep my hopes alive…
And yet there is hope. Motorpsycho have once again summoned all their powers to tell us we can still change. They have spent the last four years completing their amazing trilogy The Tower, The Crucible, and The All Is One, and still they have found the creative energy to create another sonic warning sign. Personally I was a bit sceptic at first, because with a band this prolific surely there would be a moment when they have said everything they needed to say and they would start repeating themselves, but no.
Make your choices, choose wise choose well…
Kingdom Of Oblivion sounds very like the modern Motorpsycho you have come to know these past five/six years, and yet it doesn’t repeat anything. The songwriting is more on point than the looser jams of the trilogy, more riff based too. There are some really heavy 70s fueled guitar bangers like the title track and the USA critical The United Debased and perhaps the biggest and heaviest track they ever wrote both in title and in length: The Transmutation Of Cosmoctopus Lurker. As we know Motorpsycho, the influences are all over the place, ranging from early King Crimson tentacular prog to heavy Black Sabbath stomping, to subtler indie songwriting, and a lot in between. Perhaps the biggest reason why it is such a treat to listen to everything they do is the sheer joy they put in it, the craftsmanship on display, and yet the effortlessness of the performance. Taking all into account it is quite unbelievable Motorpsycho is able to produce so much quality music in so little time, but they do.
Give me my liberty or give me dead//give me my coke and my crystal meth//along with my booze until my last breath…
Halfway through the album there’s a Floydian The Wall-like intermezzo with a creepy voice contemplating and warning: this is the end now, this is the end now, this is the end now…the album goes on though, and while song titles like Dreamkiller and At Empire’s End echo this prophecy of doom, you can’t help thinking Motorpsycho still see some light at the end of the tunnel. They found the fuel to warn us once more, more formidable and powerful than ever, so maybe now we’ll listen. If we don’t, then mankind will definitely have its Kingdom Of Oblivion.
The point of no return has finally passed, pushed over the edge…
Motorpsycho at least spoke out, had their say. It might not be too late for us. But if it is, and some future civilization will dig out this record they will hear a perfect echo of what this age of man was about: what great powers of creation we possess, and what great powers of destruction at the same time. Kingdom Of Oblivion feels like a band building a legacy, and I can’t find a more urgent and incredible album to listen to at this moment in time.
Dreamy music in general is mostly associated with good dreams: dream pop, dream like trance music, trippy stuff, good times. Wolfen (UK) undeniably makes dreamy music, but whether they are good dreams or nightmares still remains to be seen…
Consisting of members of British trip conveyors Korb and vocalist/multi instrumentalist Shane Horgan, The Mission truly feels like a melting together of two completely different worlds: dreamy spacerock, and a darker take on gothic garage rock. The latter is mostly due to Horgan’s vocals, which sound raspy and broken, like a bat out of hell howling at the moon. To be honest, it took me some time to truly appreciate them, but it’s the inherent darkness they add to the mix that does make Wolfen sound completely unlike anything else.
The raw vocals and the space-y music together make for a sound faintly reminiscent of early 90s British bands like Stone Roses or Spacemen 3. Wolfen sound more otherworldly though, like some relic out of the druggy shoegaze scene shot into space. All alone in his tiny little space capsule Wolfen wails and rages against the merciless void, slowly and inevitably moving further away from planet Earth into the growing vastness of the galaxy.
Whether you want to embark on this trip is up to you, the listener. Just beware of the type of dreamy music Wolfen makes. It might be a darker dream than you are capable of handling. Once fully prepared though, The Mission takes you to parts of the galaxy no other band has taken you before.
Exotic times at the Weirdo headquarters where I got a pleasant surprise from Peru last week, when Necio Records contacted me to write about this new band from Mexico: La Era De Acuario and their latest self-titled LP. I had one listen and got pulled in immediately; this is exactly the kind of acid-laced femme friendly 60s-tinged space rock I was looking for.
Stylistically they pay hommage to bands like Jefferson Airplane (they did a stellar cover version, check out the video below) and Shocking Blue, but they add some stoner heaviness, a bunch of floaty-thingy Indian vibes, and very addictive Spanish vocals. A song like Agujero Negro brings some Spanish influences as well with catchy castanets, while all though the album Doors-y organs vibe a perfect hippie atmosphere. It adds enough acid to distance itself from the mainstream, while staying catchy enough to have yourself some springtime psychedelic tea and hum along.
The album is actually not entirely new. It consists of a previous released EP called Lunar from 2019, with four added tracks. The total spinning time is a little over thirty minutes, which is short and sweet, and begging for much record flipping. It’s limited to 300 pieces, which I predict are all going to be sold out by the time this article is published. Make sure you start harassing Necio Records for a second pressing though, because it’ll be worth your while.
There are few bands that make me miss live music more than Mythic Sunship. On their new album Wildfire they once again prove to each other and their audience what true synchronicity means when a bunch of top notch musicians just hit it off and freaking jam. The album captures the improvisational feel perfectly, and you kind of experience the band as if you were there in the room with them, except of course, you aren’t and won’t be for some time, which is a bit of a bummer.
After a few rounds of spinning Wildfire it becomes quite clear why Mythic Sunship called it that. Wildfire, starting out with a spark, and after a little smoldering truly catching fire, often turning into a blazing hot inferno. Most of these tracks are built up like that. Some, like opener Maelstrom, don’t waste any time noodling but blast off from the get go. Others, like Olympia, built up more gradually, from Alan Parsons Project proggy to full on space rock jammy. Landfall even has some straight up funk influences that get your hips shaking! Redwood Grove is spacier, more openly rock oriented with a guitars that sound like heavily distorted sitars at times. Album closer Going Up is a genuine grand finale with a bombastic intro, a full blast drum wall, a moment of quiet reflection, and a final burst of flame that sends you on your way guns blazing.
It’s an album you could see Mythic Sunship play live in full, from start to finish. Probably taking twice as along, going with the motions, and feeding on the energy of the audience and each other. Damn it corona, we should have seen this at Freak Valley this summer, or Roadburn, or some other beautiful summer occasion. For now we only have this Wildfire to play in our living rooms. Making do has been less fun this past year…
A new Genghis Tron album after thirteen years. No Mookie Singerman on vocals, but The Armed’s Tony Wolski in his stead. A real life drummer was found in Nick Yacyshyn (SUMAC), but a line-up change is definitely not the most striking change that Dream Weapon shows in regard to the Tron’s earlier work. Gone are the days of spazz and yelling, the frantic time changes, and mindboggling power violence. Genghis Tron is a different, more contemplative beast today, but not less powerful.
From start to finish, Dream Weapon feels like stepping into a luxurious electric race car. The doors close with a subdued thud, and you lose all outside noise turns to blurred-out green. There is only focus and smooth direction, as you step on the gas and the car swiftly and silently bites its way through the tarmac. The drums drive the car forward, ever pushing and pulsating, dreamy, but not sleepy, with a clear sense of direction.
Everything about Dream Weapon feels completely thought through, from the Bladerunner synthesizers to the motorik beats, to the stylish artwork and the clean multi-vocals by Wolski. He has proven in The Armed that he has a powerful screaming voice, and yet he doesn’t use it here, letting other elements in the music take over the rage and violence. It gives Dream Weapon a completely unique feel and adds to the idea of a band matured, perhaps still ill at ease with the world, but without the necessity to scream about it. And while flashes of Nine Inch Nails songs sometimes pop up in my brain, the end result is absolutely and indisputably unique.
To me, a fan of their earlier work, but also a very different person at the time, it feels like the return of an old friend. You wouldn’t want for them to be the same person, right? You would wish for them to have grown, and they did. While I ventured away from super violent music and more into psychedelic and head areas, so did they, and through Dream Weapon Genghis Tron has come circling back to me. I am so glad they did, and the album has so much more meaning for me because of this shared background.
Dream Weapon is a glowing highlight of this musical year, and some well-needed proof that humanity is capable of great things if only we are capable of widely opening up our collective minds.
If you don’t listen too closely you might think Saturnia is an archetypical hippie band: lush Floydian influences, sitars, reverb blankets, the works. However, if you listen to the lyrics and truly understand what this Portugese entity is about you might find out he’s more punk than a lot of leather-clad spiky-haired people out there. Take Keep It Long, a manifesto about going against the grain: “don’t do as your told/never ever grow old”. Keeping it long, both your hair and your songs, is what Saturnia is all about, and they don’t give a damn what anybody thinks. That’s punk rock to me.
Musically the influences range from Syd-era Pink Floyd to Lazer Guided Melodies-era Spiritualized. Let’s just say there’s a lot of reverb drenched repetition on this album, a lot of sleepy laidbackness, and somehow still a level of urgency and steady confidence. It’s clearly an album launched by an artist who knows the ropes, has been there and done that, and makes music because he has to, not because he desperately needs you to listen to it. And yet, you do.
You’ll need Stranded In The Green because especially in these times you need someone to tell you to relax, trust yourself, and not get caught in the ratrace of the daily grind. I wouldn’t be able to find a better way of telling yourself this than immersing yourself in the green smoke clouds of Saturnia. Not because you need to not care, but because you should.
Stand your ground, put reality in perspective, chill out. Peace.
If one thing struck me immediately after launching Djinn’s new album Transmission -aside from the fact that 2021 has for some reason apparently become saxophone year?!- it is the amazing job they did on the recording and production. The recording is so crystal clear and roomy, it’s like you are there, on that Persian rug in the studio, right in the middle of the recording session. On your left the sometimes beautiful sometimes bonkers crazy saxman, on your right funky bass-pluckings and jazzy drums, and allover weird little percussion thingies that tingle-tangle in your ears.
Featuring members of GOAT and Hills, it is clear we are dealing with some quality musicians here, and a bunch jazzy noise mongers too, who aren’t afraid to rattle some cages or kick some sleeping dogs either. The album starts out a bit lazily, like you could still spin it on a Sunday morning with the fam, but then it flowers up all kinds of wacky and beautiful little ideas along the way, until you reach Urm The Mad, which I assure you will ruin your breakfast and chase the cat out of the room with its spastic sax-isms and generally frantic jazz freakouts.
Love Divine takes the Bitches Brew back a notch and once again opens my mind up to its gorgeous production value, multiple instruments battling for attention like birds in spring, and mystical enchanting vocals. This album is mostly beautiful and enchantingly weird, like its cover and the accompanying band pictures. Musically it is clear where these beautiful people come from, but they walk their own path, stubbornly, powerfully. So far 2021 Proves to be a great year for saxophone-based music, which is definitely not a sentence I ever thought I would write.