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Review + Q&A: Sula Bassana- Nostalgia (2022, Sulatron Records)

Nostalgia, the yearning for a bygone era. An era perhaps without all the incentives and stimuli of these modern times. A world without mobile phones, social media, or even the internet. A world in fact, that not so very long ago was a reality. In the 90s we had to find new music through magazines, word of mouth, real live contact, live shows, or by listening to mix tapes that we made for each other. It was the time of great excitement when crate digging and finding stuff you never heard before, and a time of full venues and bristling underground festivals…

A time you understand a guy like Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt yearns for. He lives by himself now, in a forest-y area of Germany and composes music for himself, for his bands Zone Six and sometimes other projects. But the times of the 90s, that time of true underground excitement, even before he lifted of the ground with Electric Moon and shone, that time will never come back. It seeps through the music on this album, from the grand cinematic post doom opening tones of Real Life, to the indie rock anthem We Will Make It, reminiscent of unsung 90s post hardcore heroes Slint, Sonic Youth, and Lungfish. It’s music that is quiet in all its heavy fuzziness. It has a warm glowing energy about it, but it is burning for the past, and through this fire it bears a heartbreaking melancholy too. For these times will never come back, and “the world has gotten itself in a goddamn hurry” to paraphrase one of my favorite movies of all time, Shawshank Redemption…

Sula Bassana will not follow in this rush of modern times. He will go his own tempo or no tempo at all. His stubborn creativity shines through his love of the music he makes, the effort he puts in it, his desperate attempts to preserve some of that glow that he felt in the early 90s and that slowly lost a lot of its magic but that also somehow still perseveres. That is Nostalgia; it harks back to the good old days, but it also stands strongly in the present. It is an album that could not have been made then, it is also very much now. Through all its reminiscing and melancholy that is in fact an uplifting message, and I am sure the deep diving listeners will agree that after relishing in it for all of its mesmerizing 42 minutes, you will invigorated and are ready for more.

Zone Six

I had to speak to Dave Schmidt again. The pandemic “ended” since last time we spoke, he left his longstanding band Electric Moon, and the world had gotten a lot more challenging for small underground labels like his bread and butter Sulatron Records. And now this brilliant new album, here is what he said about that…

How have you been since we last spoke in December of last year?
With the start of the war against Ukraine the sales went even lower, but the production prices rose a lot, so life for a small but professional indie label like mine became pretty hard. But we started recordings for a new album with Zone Six. It was short time after the war started, so it became dark and heavy. We try to go on working on it soon, but bureaucracy rose too so I have a lot of shitty office stuff to do and less time to be creative. My new album arrived and promotion started and soon I will ship all pre-ordered copies out etc. You see there is always work. 🙂 Also I went to concerts and festivals as a visitor, spend much time with friends and enjoy life. And I found 3 very cool other musicians to form my Sula Bassana Band and we start rehearsing soon and want to rock the nice stages in Europe from next year on. 🙂 This gives me a lot of good feel and power.

You mentioned back then you were burnt out, are you feeling better, and/or how are you dealing with that?
I’m still off power very fast and need a lot of rest. Now I also recover from Corona which makes me even less powerful. But I hope I will find back my energy soon.

In the meanwhile you quit Electric Moon, would you like to elaborate on that decision? Do you feel it is over for good or is there room for a reunion at some point?
I went off the band for private/personal reasons. Maybe we will be ready for a concert together in a bunch of years or so. No idea, and I focus on new things, especially my own band.

When one door closes, others open, right? I heard about your new project with Ax Genrich? What can you tell us about that?
Exactly! I guess I haven’t seen Ax Genrich since our last gig with Psychedelic Monsterjam (or Neumeier, Genrich, Schmidt) in 2006 (at Burg Herzberg Festival) but met him on the Take Me To The Moon Festival a few months ago and we decided to make music again. At the same festival I met Steff Bollack again after many years and met Conni Maly. So we had the idea to do something together which led to the new project called Die Raumpatrouille, and to our first concert in November. This will be completely improvised krautrock and I’m really looking forward to this gig and hope we will go on then. Last weekend I joined Ax Genrich and his band for a little jam at their show in Kassel, at the Free Flow Festival, and it was soooo good to spend time with Ax! And the jam was great too.

Let’s go on to Nostalgia, your new album. What can you tell me of the recording sessions?
I started recording new songs in 2013 when my freshly bought Mellotron arrived, sadly only the new digital one, sampled from the original mastertapes from the sixties. Anyway, I love these sounds so much and recorded a track instantly (Mellotraum). Later I recorded more tracks here and there which not fitted to other albums, so I collected them and decided they fit perfectly for a album. But man, 2 of them were real songs, where I need vocals. And writing lyrics is definitely not my superpower, hahahhaha. So they stayed unfinished for years. And in late 2021 I forced myself to finish them, what I did. The title track based on a guitar-theme I had in mind since the early 2000’s, but it changed to a Mellotron dominated track. In 2015 I played around with my Korg Polysix (a early 80’s synthesizer) a few days before the first Electric Moon concert at the Planetarium Bochum, where I used this synth. I found a nice arpeggio thing and recorded it without knowing what to do with it. Some days later, at the mentioned concert, the synth died due to the leaking memory-battery (you can hear that in the first song of the concert: https://electric-moon.bandcamp.com/track/the-last-words-of-mister-p). Later I added drums, bass, guitars and more sounds around the arpeggio and the result became one of my favourite songs of the last years. 🙂

Who was involved apart from you and what did they contribute?
Musically I did everything alone. But for mastering Eroc did his great work again and for the cover I used a fantastic painting by french painter Hervé Scott Flament. I also used some pix a friend did (Kilian CabGuy) and the title font painted by Ryan Koster.

A song like We Will Make It has a strong 90s feel, it kind of made me think of Slint, one of my favorite records from that time! Do you know them and do you feel the same?
To be honest I don’t know Slint. Will search and listen to it. After recording the basic guitars it reminded me a bit of Sonic Youth, what I heard a lot that time (around 2016 or so, when I did the recordings). Back in the 90s I was much more into electronic music first and then into late sixties and early seventies psych, kraut and space rock. Haven’t heard much of the 90s music.

I’d say the general mood of the album is quite melancholic, was that intentional? Can you recall what brought that up at the time?
I’m a very melancholic person. I guess you can hear it in a lot of my music. And the words in these 2 songs with vocals are impressed by the feel of these times…

Will you play any of it live? And when in which band will we be able to see you live soon?
There are too many things going on on that album, that I don’t think a four piece can nicely perform these tracks. But we will rehearse some older Sula “classics” and some more new songs. Also I want to play much more with my old bands Zone Six and Interkosmos. And of course with Die Raumpatrouille.

Would you like to pitch any upcoming Sulatron Records releases? What should we be looking out for?
There will be the new Farflung album Like Drones In Honey out in October (hopefully) on CD and LP. And I just received the testpressings for the debut LP Echo Colonnade by Ukranian krautrockers Reflector and listen to them right now. Sounds
great on vinyl! :-). In the same package I got the testpressings of the split LP of Speck (The Metz Sessions) and Interkosmos! Both LPs will be out in early 2023. And Tetrao Urogallus from Hamburg work on their new LP right now which will be released next year too.

What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do after reading this interview?
Hug someone, spread love and listen to great music. 🙂

Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt

Upcoming Gigs:
With ZONE SIX:
02.09.22 GER-Bielefeld, Potemkin Bar
With DIE RAUMPATROUILLE:
10.11.22 GER-Heidelberg, Commissary PHV (South-Gettysburg Avenue 45)

Find Sula Bassana and his projects here:
http://www.sulatron.com
http://www.facebook.com/Sulatron.Records
https://www.facebook.com/groups/573333580261594
http://www.soundcloud.com/sulatron
https://www.instagram.com/sulatron_records
http://www.sulabassana.de
http://www.sulabassana.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/sulabassana
https://www.instagram.com/sula_bassana_music
http://www.zonesix.bandcamp.com
https://www.instagram.com/zone_six_official
https://www.facebook.com/zonesixz6
http://www.zonesix.de
http://www.interkosmos-official.bandcamp.com
https://www.instagram.com/interkosmos_official
https://www.facebook.com/interkosmosofficial

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 https://stillplucknett.bandcamp.com/album/bandas-sonoras ) and Haress got to do a Black Sabbath cover for the Supersonic online festival https://youtu.be/vNf7TaOjUiE ).

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 – https://blackoctagon.bandcamp.com/ ) 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 ( https://youtu.be/Rpfh8VsiPmc ) 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 https://lancashireandsomerset.bandcamp.com/album/nathan-bell-colors ) 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

The Antikaroshi- Extract.Transform.Debase (2021 Exile On Mainstream Records)

The Antikaroshi and I go way back. Last time I reviewed one of their albums was eleven years ago. I talked about PER/SON/ALIEN referencing bands like Fugazi and Quicksand, I mentioned their love of postrock and even some detours to krautrock. I only got to know about Slint quite some time later on, or I would probably have mentioned them as well. Over ten years later both me and the band have grown older, like me they are showing some grey hairs already, and like me the band still tries to stay far away from pigeonholing. Firmly rooted in the guitar 90s the band’s new work is still pretty much all over the place, and I really love them for it.

The Antikaroshi have taken their good time crafting Extract.Transform.Debase with which they have shown they are true to their original form. For karoshi means “to work yourself to death” in Japanese, and these German mathrockers have picked their moniker in protest of that notion. That’s not to say their music sounds lazy, quite on the contrary. Each song rests on multiple intentions, sometimes abruptly switching gears from Unwound to Kraftwerk within the same song (Hey You). Other songs are less weird, but they are all based on inventive ideas.

Personally I am mostly really grateful for the fact that The Antikaroshi and their label Exile On Mainstream are still around, and that they keep doing what they like to do without any thought to current hypes or trends. Check out music from label bands like Dyse, Bulbul, We Insist! and Beehoover and you’ll know what I mean. Every time they release new music it’s a celebration for out-of-the-box-lookers. We share that refusal to conform, and I see it as my pleasure and duty to support them.