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Review + Q&A: Loma Baja – Piscinas Verticales (2023, Spinda Records/Echodelick Records/Lay Bare Recordings/Clostridium Records)

Piscinas Verticales…take a good look at the picture above if your Spanish is a little rusty and you’ll get there too. You’ll be needing those wits, because the quirky title and artwork are only the start of this weird adventure you are about to embark on. Loma Baja is the name, and this Spanish collective of experienced noise mongers have made an effort to shake up all of their favorite musical styles and genres to appeal to the true adepts of the weird and avant-garde…and they succeeded gloriously.

I won’t be throwing around those genre tags or styles and spoil the surprise for you, but the fact Loma Baja listed the following artists as their influence speaks volumes in my book: Beak, True Widow, Breach, Black Midi, Liars, and Portishead to name only a few…I could add Tom Waits, Thom Yorke, Captain Beefheart, and Hey Colossus, but the list would still not be complete. It does give you an idea of the self-minded pioneership of these artists.

What we get then from this mixture is a distillation of the finest strain of musical creativity, bottled in years of hardworking band experience, and served with the craftsmanship of a skilled film director to completely pull you in as a listener, and only let you go after these 45 minutes are over.

The thing I like most about Loma Baja though, is that they don’t “try” to be different, weird, or “out there”. Their accumulative backgrounds and personalities just made them like this, forward thinking, staying far away from cliches and stylistic straight jackets.

It makes Piscinas Verticales into the the exciting adventure it is, because you never know what will happen next, and your (fixed) mindset and genre concepts are constantly challenged. If there were a prize for the album that fits most on this Weirdo Shrine internet space of mine, Loma Baja would win it hands down.

In line with their characteristic combined performance, Loma Baja also answers their questions with combined synchronicity, leaving room for the individual touch while ultimately remaining a strong collective. Here the story of the band as told by Víctor Teixeira (guitars), Pacomoto (bass, keyboard, vocals), Jorge García (synths, samplers, guitars, vocals), and Raúl Lorenzo (drums).

How are you? How was the pandemic period  for Loma Baja?

ALL: ”Hello! We are fine, at the moment we are aging correctly. First of all we want to thank you for giving us space in your blog.

VICTOR: For Loma_Baja it was the beginning of everything. Originally, the band was structured differently. During the lockdown, each of us contributed songs from our homes. When we finally managed to get together, we realized that things weren’t working out and decided to start from scratch, proposing ideas as a band. Raul’s entry was what set the direction of the band. It was his first time playing drums, although he had a lot of experience with other instruments. Jorge also took the opportunity to play synthesizers instead of guitar. I think these two elements are what best define Loma_Baja’s sound

PACO: Loma_Baja GOOD  Pandemic period BAD; still recovering.

RAUL: The pandemic hit me at the perfect age, 41 years old. I wouldn’t have liked to be locked up at home for three months at 16.

Can you introduce the band, and how did you meet, etc, ?

PACO: I’m the oldest but undoubtedly the most handsome guy in the band. I live near the mountains of Madrid and besides playing music with Loma_Baja, I’ve been playing bass with my bros from G.a.s. Drummers (punk rock from southern Spain) for almost 25 years. I also work as a TV producer (working for the enemy), but I love my Loma_Baja bandmates.

RAUL: I am the drummer, a friend, and a companion in a thousand adventures with Jorge since we were about 20 years old. One day in June 2021, Jorge asked me to join one of his bands to replace their original drummer. At that time, I had only been playing the drums for two or three months, but since the rest of the band were also old acquaintances and friends, I wasn’t afraid of the challenge.

VICTOR: I’ve played guitar all my life, and that’s what I do in Loma_Baja

JORGE: Synths and samples (which are new instruments for me), guitar and vocals are my world in Loma_Baja.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

PACO: I grew up in a very musical family (thanks to my mom and dad) and have a wide spectrum of musical tastes, including rock and roll, punk rock, hardcore, heavy metal, krautrock, psychedelic, pop, classical, folk, and jazz. In Loma_Baja, I play bass, synth bass, and also handle some vocals.

RAUL: I have played guitar all my life and I regret not discovering the drums earlier.

VICTOR: Well, all of us come from playing metal, hardcore, and punk. That’s our connection. Some of us have known each other for more than 25 years. With our previous bands, we have played together many times.

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

JORGE: I work as a freelance animator and Designer so i use to spend all day sitting in my studio working in pijamas. When I finish I like to go skateboarding, play some Miyazaki’s vídeo games or enjoy my time with my girlfriend.

VICTOR: I’m a first-time father, so you can imagine.

PACO: My life revolves around working, sleeping, listening to and playing music, eating, reading books and watching films, and spending time with my family. The best moments of my week are drinking coffee, playing with Loma_Baja, and visiting my baby niece.

RAUL: On weekends, I don’t set foot in my house because I work as a sound technician. However, during the week, I lead a fairly quiet life, dedicating my time and energy to what makes me happy: playing the drums, cooking, making electronic music, and watching series with my partner.

What is the best thing about Piscinas Verticales?

RAUL: I would highlight two things: its honesty and the pleasure it transmits when listening to it from beginning to end

VICTOR: It’s really otherworldly. It wasn’t until we had it recorded that we became fully aware of how we sounded. We believe it’s a pretty original album, with all that entails. It’s not a genre-specific record, and the best part of it is that anyone who listens to it can enjoy it quite a bit.

PACO: Personally, the best thing about this album is that I had the opportunity to meet these guys whom I love and respect not only as individuals but also as talented musicians. We were able to share our different perspectives on music and help each other develop new ways of composing.

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?

VICTOR:The Spanish music scene (where we’re from) has always had a niche of unclassifiable and quite surprising bands. Everything is pretty interconnected. It has all come from the scene from 20-25 years ago related to punk and hardcore (especially in attitude), and many of these people continue to do very interesting and completely original things. This fact is fundamental for us. Loma_Baja didn’t have to start from scratch, people have been interested in what could come out of the union of four people with such different backgrounds. And that’s thanks to this freaky and interesting scene in which we have grown up all these years.

PACO: I live by the mountains, away from the big city; Madrid city is a good spot for musicians, there’s not a bad offer for rehearsal rooms, venues and freak people that come to shows of bands like ours.

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

PACO: Jeff Lynne, Nick Cave, Neil Young, Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto.

RAUL: People who make music in the world and do not have the impact or ease of making a living from it.

VICTOR: (from the band perspective) The cornerstone of Loma_Baja’s influences may be things like Beak, True Widow, or Breach (perhaps these are not so new). We don’t deliberately try to sound like any particular thing. In the band, there are people who still listen to a lot of new music, while others delve into music from other eras and try to bastardize those sounds and make them meaningful in what we do. Nationally, we’re into Akron or Tze Tze, not as a direct influence but in the way they create from very personal concepts.

JORGE: As Victor said many of out influences aren’t very contemporary but I love the music of Blank Mass, The Bug, Gnod, Black Midi, Squid and now I’m digging in a band called Trees Speak.

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs?

PACO: Composing for us is about getting four guys in a rehearsal room and seeing what happens, along with automatic writing. When it comes to recording, we prefer to do it live and Pedal to de Metal!

RAUL: When it comes to composing, we usually quickly realize what works and what doesn’t. Communication between us is fluid at all levels and we don’t take long to shape the songs. To record PISCINAS VERTICALES, we were respectful of the composition since we recorded it entirely live except for the vocals and some overdubs. We wanted the mixing and mastering of the album to be natural as well, and Rafa Camisón in mixing and Victor García in mastering did a perfect job.

VICTOR: We don’t have a very premeditated way of composing. Sometimes someone brings a more or less complete idea, other times they are more or less defined concepts or ideas, and many times they are improvisations. Among us, we have a fairly closed and primitive language that works quite well for us. There are no impositions of any kind. It’s fundamental both in how the band sounds and in composing that two of us started from scratch with our instruments. That has kept us away from any preconceived idea of what we could have sounded like coming from the bands we come from.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

PACO: We are excited to announce the upcoming presentation of our first album! It will take place at Sound Isidro in Sala Maravillas, Madrid on May 26th. We would like to express our gratitude to our record labels: Spinda Records (Spain), Lay Bare Recordings (Netherlands), Clostridium Records (Germany), and Echodelick Records (USA).

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

PACO: Deep breathe, survive, love your family, friends, Fugazi and Beak and (of course) listen to Loma_Baja.

RAUL:Put more cowbell on everything.

Review + Q&A: Dead Sea Apes – Rewilding (2023, Cardinal Fuzz Records/Feeding Tube Records)

The Dead Sea Apes have returned out of their pandemic induced slumber. Domesticated were they, caged, like all of their musician brethren. Sure, they managed to make new music still, but it was never as raw and alive as before. Until now. They found the holy fire again, being able to play together renewed, free in the live experience. The jam, the very blood flowing through their veins. The Apes could roam again, wild once more. Bear witness to the Rewilding of the Dead Sea Apes.

On their new album the revitalised Apes have stripped their sound to the very core: guitar, drums and bass. Just three guys in a room picking up on a vibe and rolling with it, six times in a row for forty-two minutes. The sheer pleasure of the solid click Brett Savage, Chris Hardman, and Jack Toker have is infectious, and it is not difficult to visualise the energy in the room with your eyes closed.

You can feel it too, in your limbs, in your stomach, the rumbling bass, the tribal hacking of the drums, the gyrating howl of the guitars. This is a band of wildling apes released from their cages once more, ready to crush, ready to shed some sweat, ready to breathe. Rewilding presents a band finding back their holy fire; the mighty jam, the intuitive ritual, and we get to be there in this moment. It is a good time to be alive.

I talked to guitarist Brett Savage, who was more than happy to tell us more about the who/why/how of Dead Sea Apes. It is so great to be able to connect with passionate musician lifers like him and his band mates. It is the main reason for keeping up this Weirdo Shrine of mine in the first place…

How are you? How was the pandemic period for Dead Sea Apes?

Hello Jasper! Im all well and good, thank you. Hope that you are too! Personally speaking, I’ve got very mixed feelings about the pandemic period. I realise that it came with a real heavy cost to a lot of people – but I also thought it was really an interesting time to be alive. The lockdown period here in the UK was a really odd time. There was a real uncanniness to that time that I don’t think that we will ever experience again in our lifetimes, and I do think it ended up having a huge bearing on Rewilding. The empty streets, clear skies and the general quietness was a little bit spooky.

Here in the UK, we were allowed to go outside for short periods for exercise and get a breath of fresh air. I was out walking with my dog on a quarry local to me and I was listening to some really spooky music (Dire Wolves, as it happens), it was April and still quite cold and windy. The wind was making all the trees sway wildly, flecks of snow were flying in the wind – and all of a sudden, two deer just run out in front of me. It was like something out of a dream. It kind of felt like Mother Nature was reasserting herself in some way. That had a profound effect on me. It was both dreamlike and visceral at the same time – and that really seemed to jive with the times.

I also felt like a lot of people were affected rather oddly by the overall atmosphere of the lockdown. I’ve always been interested in conspiracy theories (not as a fan, more as an observer) and it was interesting to see how these ideas had started to promulgate so fervidly, as they often do in periods of uncertainty. These themes and the general uncanny vibe of that whole era seemed to fit with the primal and red-blooded music that had started to come out of us when we finally got back into the rehearsal room.

Obviously, it was frustrating for anyone in a band during the lockdown, as it was incredibly difficult to make music together beyond recording stuff and sending it over the internet, but we managed to get some ideas together with Adam Stone and Stephen Bradbury (Black Tempest) to make Dataland, which we are all really proud of and which I think captures some of that weirdness of the pandemic era really well, not least in Adam’s words.

Pic by Hayley Ward HEW

Can you introduce the band, and how did you meet, etc, ?

Originally, Both Chris Hardman (drums), Nick Harris (Bass) and I (guitar) met through online musician’s noticeboards way back in 2009. We were a steady line up, up until Nick Harris left at the end of 2017. It took us a good few months to find Jack (Toker), who came in to replace him on the bass. I used to see Jack at quite a few gigs down in London and had always got in well with him. I ran into him at gig for The Heads in Manchester when we were looking for a new bass player after a few false starts. He had not long moved back up to the North of England and was keen to join. And we are so glad he has. He has given us a new lease of life and has fitted right in.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

All of us have had experience playing generally loud and weird stuff in a number of bands, up and down the country!

What does a regular day in your lives look like? (jobs/hobbies/vocations…)

Well, music is a connective tissue in our lives. In his day job, Jack builds and fixes guitars (he has just built me a beautiful custom guitar, by the way!). Chris is a sound engineer for the BBC. He also records and produces all of our stuff. We have recorded everything in our rehearsal room and Chris makes it sound pretty much as if we have been in a recording studio! I’m definitely biased here, but I think Chris is a true artisan when it comes to recording. He has a lot of creative talent backed up with a high level of technical skill. As for myself, in recent years, I’ve opened a record shop, so making music is kind of a ‘busman’s holiday’!

What is the best thing about Rewilding?

I think Rewilding has been an absolute rebirth for us. Although it took its time in coming, I think that we have bounced back with a real passion. I think we were really hungry to get back to playing as a band and let that unspoken communication can come back into play. You really can’t replicate it playing it in a back bedroom and sending it over data transfer. We wanted some of that ‘rehearsal room democracy’ to inform our music – and as a result, I think it made this album much more focussed, cohesive and our most passionate yet. Admittedly, we have taken our time in making it, but I feel that we have got the feel and the sound just right. We wanted it to come along in its own time. We haven’t laboured it to the point where it had drained all of the life out of it. It feels wild and spirited. We’ve been Rewilded!

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?

Both Chris and I live in different parts of Greater Manchester and we have always pretty much rehearsed in the city centre. Jack lives a bit further out in Todmorden. Both Manchester and Todmorden have great promoters and audiences that are really supportive for music like ours.

A friend of ours told me recently that they felt that the Dead Sea Apes sound is very ‘Northern’, not so much that we sound like Oasis or The Stone Roses or anything (at least I hope not), more that it captures the vibe and space of the surrounding hills and local environment etc. I took that as a real compliment.

Pic by Hayley Ward HEW

What are some of your best memories with the band so far?

We have a lot of good memories with the band – and most of them revolve around the friends, including a lot of great bands, that we have made and met along the way. We have been really lucky to meet loads of great people – and Facebook has allowed us to keep in touch. We’ve also played with bands that we are real fans of such as The Heads, Carlton Melton, Part Chimp and loads more.

We also have a back catalogue of albums that we are proud of. I don’t feel that we have any real weak spots in our collection, nor feel the need to rewrite history to reframe them to make sense of them. They all capture us at a point where we were at that time – and I feel that they all stand up really well.

We have also been incredibly lucky to work with Cardinal Fuzz on all of them. You really could not wish for a more supportive label owner than Dave Cambridge – who is a great friend of all of us in the band. We have also co-released with some great labels including (the legendary!) Feeding Tube, Sky Lantern, Sunrise Ocean Bender (RIP Kevin McFadin) and Deep Water Acres. Also, a big shout out to Andy Uzzell who released a couple of groovy lathe cuts with Adam and Steve on his great Misophonia label! We could also do with giving props to Adam at Drone Rock Records and the Terrascope guys for adding us onto their great compilations too. And finally, thanks to all at Golden Lion Sounds for releasing a split single with us and the mighty Carlton Melton!

Can you tell me about the recording sessions of Rewilding? How did you get in the right flow?

I think just before the pandemic, we felt a little bit lost – and not a lot of stuff was coming together. We kind of entered the lockdown period with nothing really solid to work with as a band.

When we got back in the rehearsal room we regrouped and returned with a newfound energy. Some new ideas seemed to just arrive fully formed, which really shocked us. Some other ideas that we really liked took some time to percolate into what they are now – but definitely showed promise. We could feel our confidence returning and I think when you are excited by what you are doing, the album then starts to build up its own momentum. And as I said before, we are lucky in the sense that Chris is a sound engineer and records everything – so nothing is really lost to the ether. We can listen back to the jamming out that we do with each song and take any ideas that come from the sessions and apply them to the songs.

I also feel that Jack had really bedded in and stamped his authority all over this album too. That’s not to say that he hadn’t on the last two, but I feel that he has really brought lots of ideas and a real energy to this one. It really has confirmed that he was the right choice!

Pic by Hayley Ward HEW

What is the secret of a good jam? What would you recommend aspiring jam bands to do?

Jamming is a pretty strange thing to try and quantify as I feel that there is a lot going on in the mix! I think it really helps if you are actively listening to each other and that you can pick up on cues for dynamics etc – but I also think, when I put my ‘magical thinking’ hat on, that a lot of unspoken communication comes into play. Peak states, flow states, third mind, whatever… but it definitely feels like something spooky is going on when you hit your stride.

I’m also a big advocate of the input/output rule – the more music that you listen to expands the scope of your own musical imagination. Its also good to work with other people who like stuff that you have never heard – and they can subsequently open you up to it – and likewise, it’s also good to work with people who share similar touchstones as you.

I suppose an openness to follow where it goes is also good. It might not hit the spot everytime – but you are more likely than not to hit peaks the more that you play together!

Any touring plans? Would love to see you guys in Europe!

We do have some touring plans. Not least, we are playing at Ottawa Psych Fest in September – at the invitation of Mr John Westhaver of the amazing The Band Whose Name Is a Symbol. He is a good example of one of those really good friends that you meet along the way. We cannot wait to play over there. John has been a real advocate for us over there – and we have been told to expect a warm welcome. Christopher Laramee is also playing as Wasted Cathedral, and he is another exceptionally fine fellow who I’ve met a few times now. Its going to be great! We do have a few UK dates for the rest of the year, but not for Europe unfortunately. Maybe next year? (and so long as the Brexit related admin nonsense is not too much of a stumbling block!)

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

I’ve always loved it when The Minutemen’s Mike Watt used to shout ‘learn an instrument… form a band’ at the end of shows. I think that is good advice, so I will steal it!

Dead Sea Apes

Interview: Mike Vest (Drunk In Hell, Modoki, Artifacts & Uranium, Downtime, Neutraliser, Mienakunaru, Bong, Blown Out, 11Paranoias)

Ok, so we just had to talk to Mike Vest, right? Known throughout the underground for his involvement in Drunk In Hell, Bong, 11Paranoias, and of course the mother of all psych jam breakouts: Blown Out. In stark contrast to his regular noise mongering on record and on stage, we find the man in the quiet environment of his vegetable garden in Newcastle, UK. “I much rather visit the chaos, than live in it” is a beautiful quote from the man who seems to live very much in the presence, and does not dwell on the past for a second. So open your eyes, but definitely also your ears for this one, because there will be a lot of new and upcoming sounds in this one…

How are you? Can you introduce yourself and you multiple endeavors?

I’m good, enjoying these lighter nights, I’ve been gardening, I farmed a lot of potato soil end of last summer. Trying to get the garden soil back to a good pH or whatever. Starting to see the benefits now. De bois, gariguette and cambridge strawberries plants are growing well,
especially happy with the Ceanothus (Lilac Tree). The roots run deep, took about a year for it to be able to stand on its own. Hydrangeas are returning stronger, dark violets and royal reds hopefully, like last year. Going to plant a pear tree in the autumn. Tulips came out nice too. Winter pansies holding strong. Nice to have some freshly picked flowers around the house again.

So…two new LPs out now, MODOKI with Mitsuru Tabata playing leads.
I play bass and do the mixing and Dave Sneddon, handles the drums.
‘Atom Sphere’ our debut is available from Riot Season (UK) and Echodelick Records (US)
Our second, ‘Luna To Phobos’ should be seeing the light in a couple of months I think.
The second has more twists and turns. These were both recorded and mixed around the same time as each other.

New album from Artifacts & Uranium, our 3rd ’The Gateless Gate’ is out on Riot Season (UK) and Echodelick Records (US). Fred Laird did a great job with the production and mixing, as he has done with all our albums. We have just completed the 4th. This has Mitsuru Tabata as a guest feature. As I was working on Modoki stuff at the time.

The Tomoyuki Trio LP should be seeing the light soon as well.
A trio with legendary guitarist Tomoyuki Aoki from UP-Tight. Awesome album. Was a pleasure to work with him. Foundations are laid for our 2nd. Up-Tight have just released a couple of lps on Cardinal Fuzz. Reissues, well worth checking out. kawabata

I completed a new debut album with IIkka Vekka, Ohto Pallas, Otto Juutilainen from Haare & Nolla. New project called Kaliyuga Express, total Hawkwind experience, specifically the Warriors and Masters periods.

Did a lot of experimenting with ultra delays on the guitars and micro tonal changes, lots of automation and octave chords. Tried to mix the guitars so every four/eight bars, something changes tonally. Just recently signed this off with the label.

DOWNTIME, a duo with me and Dave Sneddon. Our debut tape came out on Cruel Nature Records (UK) in January. Might be a few left. Weird instrumental noise rock. Slide guitar ventures. SNED runs a publishing house.

Lot of punk literature and art books.

NEUTRALISER, collaboration with Charlie Butler, released a tape on Cruel Nature Records (UK) in January.‘Capsule Bowed Space’ There is some copies of the 2nd run of tapes.
Also self released a digital album a month back, called ‘Liquid Oxygen Kerosene’.

What can you tell me about your musical background?

Been playing guitar & bass in bands’ since I was 16, got into improvisation and noise/drone music specifically when I was 20, I think. Started BONG, loosely, when I was 22/23. Played in noise, drone, improv sludge, noise rock, thrash, punk, grindcore bands through my 20s. Started playing gigs heavy from the age of 25 till 38. Probably more known for playing in BONG, 11Paranoias, Drunk In Hell, Melting Hand, Blown Out, Mienakunaru….

What does a regular day in your life look like? What role does music play?

Most days I’m working on music, mixing, recording or just listening and making notes.
I’ve got so many notepads full of numbers, track names, ideas, edits…etc. Maybe for only for an hour or so. But everyday, there is something to check over. I minimised my recording setup and the way I record albums. So it’s not a big thing to just start checking/recording/mixing various projects I’m working on. Its a fluid motion, I’ve made it easy to just pick up, play and start recording/mixing and so on..

I paint whilst I listen to mixes.

Painting by Mike Vest

Where do you live and how does it affect your musical doings?

I lived at the coast for years, now I live close to the boarder between Gateshead and Newcastle. I used to be away all the time, playing shows/recording in larger cities, so, with being away lot, made me appreciate the smaller scale and calmer atmosphere I would return to. Less daily stress means more time to be inspired and productive, I guess.
Like a pirate, I would go and gather all gold from the capitals and go back to the sea.

I much rather visit the chaos, than live in it.

Can you highlight some of your favourite releases you were involved in, and tell us why?

The stuff I’ve released over the past 2-3 years and LPs that are on the way. I’m most proud of. I don’t save any copies of any album I have done. They either all get sold, given away or traded, everything is in the outbox. Test pressing etc, everything goes eventually. Being able to create music with Mitsuru, Junzo & Aoki over the past couple of years has been great. Same with Fred Laird with A&U & Charlie Butler in Neutraliser, got me back into enjoying, what I love the most about music.

The creating of it and the evolving process. Most importantly though is Dave Sneddon, without his drums, many of these albums/projects/bands would not be possible.

What is “the dream” for you as an independent artist?

To have 10% of my followers, buy my music and art.

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

Buy music and art.

Spanish psychedelic garage outfit Maragda announce new EP, release new song The Reckless now

Maragda from Spain mix their psychedelic rock up with garage, grunge and stoner influences in such a way that at least to these ears the original source is deeply lost. Their debut was a cool little record that displayed plenty of that fresh take and that raised heads all around the world. To continue surfing that wave the band have recorded two new songs which will be released as a nice old school 7 Inch record. They are up for pre-order today, and the first song can be heard and seen below in the way that it was recorded; that’s right! Completely live.

The official press release states:

The live sessions ‘The Reckless / Evil Seed’ was recorded at Cal Gravat, in an outdoor environtment, on 6th November 2022 by Martí and Marc G. (video) Marçal S. and Joan R. (audio); then mixed and mastered by Marçal Itarte. It’s coming out on 2nd June on both video and a limited edition of 300 seven inches vinyl records through the collaboration of Spanish indie labels Spinda Records and Nafra Records. Pre-order available from 5th May.

Review + Q&A: Giöbia – Acid Disorder (2023, Heavy Psych Sounds Records)

The best space rock records are albums that take you on a journey. Albums that have a strong narrative, but which still leave enough room to create your own imagery along with it. Acid Disorder by Italian cinematic space rock flagship Giöbia is one of those albums.

It is a record that has songs you can easily play separately, but that work even more hallucinating taken in as a whole. With Queen Of Wands we are immediately welcomed aboard their majestic ship, as it hovers over our house. While taking off, we slowly see the familiar ground beneath us disappear and change into weird and unknown vistas. The band skilfully takes their time to let this image unfold itself to the listener, after which the song’s Pink Floyd-y part lets you know you have arrived at the first stage of this trip.

The Sweetest Nightmare is a completely different beast, heavier, more anxious, and with Melissa Crema’s serene vocals buried deep underneath a veil of reverb. It is a song that has opened up a portal within the record through which we travel into a unexplored dark world.

Consciousness Equals Energy then finds us travelling at warp speed, the windows at our left and right showing nothing but colors and extreme movement. Vortex filled, reverb drenched, delay pedals flickering, this is Giöbia at their most determined.

When we arrive at our next destination the song Screaming Souls sets the tone for a harsher and more aggressive background. Big walls of haze are drawn up, and Stefano Basurto’s vocals carefully guide us through these wastelands. Blood Is Gone takes some time to contemplate on this horror dimension, after which our space ship takes off again to explore ever farther.

Circo Gallatico draws us into the wonderful weirdness of a completely different world. It would not be out of place on the soundtrack of 1973’s classic sci-fi animation La Planète Sauvage, as it wonderingly flies over the surface of this wild land and psychedelically expresses its curiosity at its marvels.

In Line brings us closer to earth, with Melissa Cream’s vocals now far more upfront in the mix. It is a wonderfully weird song, that feels like a bit of a comedown after all the psycho visual stimuli of the previous space travels.

The album closes off with the title track Acid Disorder, a ghosty shoegazer that sees Giöbia theatrically taking their leave in a foggy bank of mist. The album that was also a head movie and space travel has almost finished, the ending credits roll, and we are back on our own planet Earth. Thank you Giöbia for another wonderful trip!

A year has passed since I talked to Melissa Crema about the upcoming album with her band Giöbia. I am happy to say that all of the anticipation I had at that time was justified, as Acid Disorder is a wonderful album that will keep your mind occupied for a good while. Melissa once again was more than happy to spend some time talking about it and providing some background on the band as well…

Hi guys! How have you been since we last spoke while you were in the studio?

Hi Jasper! One year has passed since the last time we spoke. We have been great and at the moment we are very excited about the upcoming album release which is approaching. We have worked hard on the new tracks, focusing our energy and effort in the recordings, so we are really thrilled to have the chance to bring them live on stage very soon. 

What can you tell me about your experiences on the road in the mean time?

It was amazing to start playing again after such a long time off the road because of the pandemic. During the last year we have joined some amazing festivals like Sidéral Bordeaux Psych Fest, Volcano Sessions, Saalepartie, Psychedelic Network Festival, Heavy Psych Sounds Festivals and many others, along with club shows in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Italy. Feeling the crowd while performing and meeting the people are simple things to which we give a brand new and deeper value now. 

What can you tell me about your lives when you are not making music with Giobia?

Life is music and music is life 🙂 – there’s not much more to say besides making music, playing means all to us. 

Where do you live, and how does it affect your music?

We live in Milan, Italy, an always changing city open to different cultures, beliefs and ways of thinking, which hopefully has much to offer. Living here means being real-time connected with the underground music scene, not only the local one but the international one, which is really important to us. Milan is one of the main cities in Italy for live shows, therefore being based here is a great opportunity for us to discover new music everyday and get continuously inspired. 

What is the best thing about the new album Acid Disorder? 

The best thing about ‘Acid Disorder’ probably is that we feel that it really represents us, as we managed to convey all our musical inclinations and different backgrounds into this album, making it something unique. Thanks to the wide use of synthesizers, it can be seen as a modern sounding album even though it has its roots in krautrock and even prog rock, without neglecting our love for psychedelic and 60s rock. We feel close to many musical genres, but equal to no one – that’s what we wanted to express with ‘Acid Disorder’. 

How have the responses to the new music been so far?

We have got many positive feedbacks about the 3 singles taken off the new album which is set for release on April 28th. ‘Acid Disorder’ has been already reviewed in several magazines, among others we can mention Rock Hard Italy, in whose next edition an interview with us will follow as well, and Rumore magazine. Also, an ultra limited special edition of the LP has been exclusively pressed by Levitation, organizer of Austin Psych Fest, in partnership with our label Heavy Psych Sounds. Thanks to this, our music has easily reached overseas people too. 

What are some of your biggest influences when it comes to synthesizer music? 

When it comes to synthesizers, Klaus Schulze is certainly our major influence and he will always be missed. Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel, of which he was the founder, are among the most important bands we took inspiration from during our creative process. 

Which movies can you recommend? 

We can recommend Caliber 9 (English translation of the original title ‘Milano Calibro 9’) which is our favourite Italian poliziottesco from the 70s with the band Osanna performing the soundtracks. A real masterpiece of the noir genre, for the ones who like it. 

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

We invite everyone here to listen to our new songs as soon as possible of course ! We hope you will enjoy the music and we are looking forward to meeting you all at our next shows very soon 🙂

Psychedelic Source: Bence Ambruce’s Lemurian Folk Songs – Maro (re-release) and :nepaal – Protoaeolianism (2023, Psychedelic Source Records)

In a small rural village in Hungary, a couple of real time hippies have founded their own pastoral version of heaven. Inside the compounds of their community, time hardly seems to exist, and they can truly immerse themselves in what they call (in their own words) “a deep life wave”. Part of that deep life is making music that echoes this kind of being; existing outside time and space. Songs that can easily flow for twenty minutes or more, and which are meditative and hypnotic in character. This is the Psychedelic Source, not a record label in the traditional sense, but a group of people jamming and releasing their music upon the world. At the helm is Bence Ambrus, often aided by his wife Krisztina Benus, and various others. Just visit their Bandcamp and get ready to get lost for a while…

Here at the Weirdo Shrine headquarters we don’t mind shedding space and time, so we dove into a couple of doozies in their discography, starting with a serene jam by Bence and Krisztina, followed by the new hyper chilled space rock jam by :nepaal, and finally talking to Bence about re-releasing Maro by his Lemurian Folk Songs band.

The liner notes “Special guests: the dingo, some birds and the chicken” say more than I ever could about this lovely two song garden jam by Bence Ambrus on guitars and Kriszti on keys. They create a beautiful ambient stillness that is quite rare in today’s hectic world. It’s the ideal soundtrack to throw your phone out of the window to. Just let your chores be, let your kids solve their own problems, tell your boss to do his job himself, and zone out into this tranquil Hungarian garden with Bence and his wife. They know the deal.

A new :nepaal album is keen to turn some heads. The last effort Black Batik I&II was well received internationally, and rightfully so. It is Space rock with a capital S. Three songs, over forty minutes, so you know where you will be going. Up, up into space you go, the endless void, warp speed, no gravity. :nepaal has turned the jam into an art, nay, a religion. They are meditating monks of space rock, who mastered the art of levitation by improvisation. Best to get ready. Pack some of that squeezy fruit and a couple of protein bars, because this one is going to take a while…

Maro by Lemurian Folk Songs is the first full album with vocals by this Hungarian band. You could also say that they found their true form here, a combination of stoner jams and kraut spirituality. Previously released on CD in 2017, the band has finally found the means to properly release it on vinyl this year. After six years it still has not lost any of its weird power, and sympathetic warmth. In fact, I was wondering about the circumstances in which it was recorded back then, so I asked Bence Ambrus, and this is what he told me:

Can you describe what the circumstances of Lemurian Folk Songs were before recording Maro?

Our first material in 2015 born from a jam session , but the problem was: we were too dumb on our instruments, but then with Krisztina we went to travel in Spain for 2 years. In these times we were living from street music, so it was a great time for learn guitar. The first song with vocals was Magister Blues which I wrote while we were living in a cave on the island of Tenerife. When we got home, I had some songs in my pocket, so we reunited the band and Krisztina joined.

Can you walk us through the album?

The first song was Magister Blues when I felt like we are in the center of the world in a desert in a cave by the ocean. Melusina is an old jam, we used to play  always before. La Caleta was born in the Andalusian village ‘Maro’ where we also lived by the sea in a diy cane house. The playa was called ‘La Caleta de Maro’. On this playa we spent a lot of “high” time with Gergely, the bassist.

The Other 3 songs are a Mesopotamian story sung, about a princess who wants to get initiated, but the monks say she has to gain experience, (Temple of the Moon) then she goes to the tunnel where she meets with herself, she kills her “guardian” then she gets to the hall (Grand Sanctuary), then she realizes that she is one with the universe, she is all etc..(Messianic Atrium) . It’s a usual initiative tale. I wrote those in Hungary when we got back home.

Review + Q&A: Codex Serafini – God’s Spit (2023, Halfmeltedbrain/Ceremonial Laptop)

Most space rock is played by humans emulating aliens, but of course the whole thing would be much more genuine if it were played by actual aliens! Enter Codex Serafini, a group of Saturnian extraterrestrials now holed up in Brighton, UK. Together they cook up an unearthly racket of psychedelic noise rock, here gathered on a live recording at one of their communal rituals called God’s Spit.

What strikes immediately about these fierce five is the shrieking banshee vocal presentation, in combination with a sax player from hell. There is a strong no wave vibe going on, reminding of rebellious femmes like Les Georges Leningrad, Bikini Kill, and even Melt Banana. The music follows this rebellious attitude; lots of angry shouting, raucous distorted guitar thrashing, and punky rhythms.

But all the same the band also takes their time to pause the set down, and freak out psychedelically with atmospheric sax parts and jazzy interludes. Shamanic vocals invoke images of strange and otherworldy incantations…you get the feeling this band is channelling the weird, and you just wish you could be there to witness this outrageous spectacle.

Much more than with many human bands, is clear with Codex Serafini anything is possible. They don’t stick to any human conventions, and I dare to say they probably wouldn’t stick to any alien conventions either. If you live in the UK you better scroll all the way down to bottom of this article, and quickly find yourself a suitable live date to attend this madness. I can guarantee you an evening that is literally out of this world.

I was just unsuspectingly walking my dog, when I suddenly got beamed up by space ship Codex Serafini...the scripture noted underneath here is a truthful account of the conversation that followed:

Hi how are you? How has the pandemic period been for Codex Serafini?

It feels like a lifetime since the Pandemic has happened, don’t you think that? We’ve been lucky enough to have had the privilege of rehearsing and writing new music despite the odds. Gigging was limited as for many other bands out there but somehow we’ve made it work. It’s quite surreal thinking that not long ago we were not allowed to leave our houses or had to be socially distanced from one another. This in a way made our band a lot stronger, bringing new musical ideas to the surface.

Can you introduce yourself, how did you meet, etc?

Yes, of course! We are Codex Serafini, The Saturnian Dwellers of the moon Enceladus. Our name is inspired by Luigi Serafini’s book titled “Codex Seraphinianus”. From the chaotic glossolalia, to the hawling sound of the saxophone to the crushing beats of our drums and the melting sounds of the bass and guitar, the book inspired us to create a sort of sound that in many ways could be chaotic but also healing. When you find yourself in the peak of our sound, you have two options: to close your eyes, take a deep breath and let loose or let your mind and body explode into a million pieces then rebuild yourself back, having a better perspective of what life could be. Because life could be so chaotic but also so enjoyable at the same time. Years ago, we decided to jam in a basement in Brighton with very limited instruments but a lot of creativity in our pockets then we took those ideas into the rehearsal room. Most of us already knew each other and some of us were really good friends already with very similar musical interests. Some of us left and others joined, but really, if you think about it, no one really leaves Codex. We are a collective of passionate musicians always in search of the Enceladian sound and once we find it, it becomes a big cosmic orgasm.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

We as a group are very passionate about music in general. We love so many genres and have been in so many bands throughout the years only to ultimately prepare us for this band. We’ve been in psych, grindcore, jazz, noise rock, sludge and stoner bands in the past. Some of us also organize gigs and run our own record labels, helping small passionate bands like us bring their sounds to the surface.

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

We all have very busy lives. Some of us decided to undertake higher education and some of us have jobs that require working with the most vulnerable people in our society (we know, we know! Even the Saturnian dwellers have to live “normal lives” and contribute to the society somehow). As well as undertaking higher education and working, some of us run a couple of small record labels (Ceremonial Laptop & Halfmeltedbrain Records) & small businesses. This is a difficult question because every day varies, we don’t really have “regular days” as such as we are not really from this planet ha!

What is the best thing about God’s Spit?

It’s a combination of older songs and newer songs we have written throughout the years. As a live album, we think we have managed to make it sound pretty solid. When we recorded this album, we were at the peak of touring, in the winter of 2021. At that point we toured for about a month and having this album remind us of the lovely times we’ve had on the road, it’s the best thing! The album was recorded in Ipswich at The Smokehouse, a venue close to our hearts. 

Where do you live and how does it affect your music?

When the group started we all lived in Brighton and then gradually some of us moved to Bristol, Canterbury and Shoreham, leaving just a couple of us in Brighton. But, this does not affect us at all. If more than anything, this brought us closer together and we are still able to rehearse, write new music and tour around the country.

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

Pharoah Sanders, Dead Can Dance, Omar Rodriguez Lopez, The Mars Volta, Alison Moyet, GNOD, Cult Of Luna, The Doors, Alice Coltrane, Orchestra Baobab, Le Butcherettes. We have so many musical heroes that we could easily write you a 10 page list but we think this is enough for now  haha! We are very much into noise rock but also cosmic jazz and arabic music and a pinch of pop. It’s a bit like life. You need that chaos to find yourself in the cosmic dance and then return to your spiritual roots.

Can you tell me about how you went about composing and recording songs?

We are always planning ahead and though some songs or motifs are gifted to us from a sacred place beyond even our comprehension, most of the songs that you’re hearing from us are formed in the rehearsal room. Someone comes up with an interesting sound and everyone else follows until something colossal happens and then there, in that moment you have that connection that makes sense to your consciousness. It’s that sense of complete bliss, once you put all the pieces together.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

To release more music and travel around the planet to make our sound known to more people. Especially for those looking to discover the chaos and love that music could offer to the listener.

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

Find a cozy place in your apartment or house, hold your hands together, close your eyes and take a deep breath in. If you happen to have some spiritual mind altering substances laying around your place, consume a small amount then go on Bandcamp, search for “Codex Serafini”, lay on your back with your eyes shut or open and enjoy the experience. If you then find the sound within, come and see us in flesh when we’re traveling around the country with our music.

Codex Serafini embark on their God’s Spit UK Tour from 31st March until 15th April:

31st March – Ipswich

1st April – Chelmsford

2nd April – Bristol

6th April – Birmingham

7th April – Sheffield

8th April – Rotherham

9th April -Leeds

11th April – Canterbury

12th April – Brighton

14th April – St Leonards

15th April – Manchester

Events and tickets:

Review + Q&A: L’Ira Del BAccano – Cosmic Evoked Potentials (2023, Subsound Records)

Wisdom comes with age. And cosmic wisdom might come with experience and many cosmic travels. Italy’s L’Ira Del Baccano have made many of those travels, they recently returned from another one in their favorite touring country Germany, and their experience shows on this new album.

Having been the same band under various names since the mid 90s, L’Ira Del Baccano have earned their stripes playing progressive instrumental stoner rock, with nods to more psychedelic and weird wanderings. On Cosmic Evoked Potentials they have distilled all their road burning and jamming years into five adventurous stoner jams that burst at the seams with cosmic energy and fresh ideas. It is a versatile space rocket ride with many attractions, and its forty minutes are over before you know it.

It is an album that presents itself majestically, in all its revered experience and musical skill. The production is also drawn up huge and spacious, with plenty of room for weirdo synth freakery, but always with a slowly head banging longhair in mind when it comes to heavy and memorable riffery.

It is clear to this particular psychedelic “head” that with Cosmic Evoked Potentials L’Ira Del Baccano are sharing themselves among the greats of instrumental stoner music. I guess this year, with releases by Rotor, Buddha Sentenza, Clouds Taste Satanic, and this one, we are truly being spoiled!

Alessandro “Drughito” Santori photos by :

Freshly off his tour through Germany, I found main axe man Alessandro Santori more than willing to shoot the shit with Weirdo Shrine about the band, its moniker, his personal musical roots, and a lot more. My personal goal is to drink a beer with this dude and hear him out about all his adventures while touring Europe, but for now, our little internet chat will do just fine too…

How are you? How have you been lately, and how has the pandemic period been for L’Ira Del Baccano?

Ciao to you Jasper and your readers!! I’m tired but very good.. we just came back 6 days ago from the first series of concerts to promote the new album Cosmic Evoked Potentials, that came out on March 3rd on Subsound Records while we were on the road already. We played 9 gigs,mostly in Germany  and it was amazing and almost surreal to be on stages again. The pandemic period has been, as for almost all I presume, very strange and unfortunately for many also hard and painful. To keep it on the musical side the impossibility to go on the road and play shows; in some cases, like here in Italy with the hard lock down the impossibility also to meet for rehearsal, for many weeks, changed the life and path of many bands and musicians. I must say that for L’IRA DEL BACCANO it was a bit  different maybe; because before the start of the pandemic we already faced a huge change with drummer of 16 years having a heart attack and deciding to not tour anymore and just work as drum teacher. That was a monumental change for us because as an instrumental band the bond between instruments it is possibly more “important” and deep than music based on vocals, and also the specific type of songs we play..very long and complex..made it all more scary. In this sense our new drummer Gianluca, a good friend of our ex-drummer and suggested in primis by him, had time thanks to the pandemic stop, to really enter and become part of the band. First learning songs that we played for so many years at that point and then putting his style to the new compositions

Can you introduce yourself, how did you meet, etc, what does the band name mean and does it still 100% apply to you? 

I’m the founder, together with the other guitarist Malerba of the band and L’IRA DEL BACCANO is a continued progression and evolution of a journey we started back in ’94 when the band was called Dark Awake and succesfully Loosin’o’Fequencies from 96 to 2002 and the line up had vocals at that point. As “Loosin'” we recorded and put out a mcd in 98 recorded and produced by the Italian guru of Doom Paul Chain. Later around 2004 after a long time searching for a new singer  we decided to become officially instrumental. To mark the change even more we decided to choose another name and L’IRA DEL BACCANO was an idea by Roberto. Baccano in Italian refers to something loud, noisy but Baccano is the most energetic and vital form of uproarious chaos. It is not simply a loud and continuous noise from bedlam It’s the sound of the overwhelming, participatory party, it’s a human sound. The word comes from Bacco/Bacchus God of wine. Ira is Italian for “wrath” . It’s actually very hard to translate it we could say it means ” The wrath of Baccano “. Our connection with Bacco comes from the fact that the zone out of Rome where we live is a territory of vineyards and wine and close here during the ancient days was huge the worship of Pagan Gods like Bacco or Diana, the Goddess  primarily considered a patroness of the countryside, hunters, and the Moon. We dedicated the cover and all artwork of our 2014 album Terra 42 to Diana.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

Speaking for myself, I started very young being attracted by music and guitar. Bought my first metal album, Iron Maiden‘s Piece of Mind, when I was 11 and recorded my first demo of original music when I was 14. I’ve always been a very curious person, as kid first, and then teen and man so I see myself still in a never ending evolution of new things to like and be passionate about. fortunately music is still one of these things! I can say that probably a very important passage for my musical background was discovering 3 Bands that changed me as listener and musician: Paradise Lost with the Gothic and Shades of God albums turned me into a fan of slow ,heavy music. Rush‘s live album Exit Stage Left for the progressive side and The Grateful Dead for the “open your mind and jam” side of music.

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

As thousands of other bands we do not live by our music, so in general therms we could say that playing music is still a wonderful hobby for us. Everyone has a regular job. Personally I’m a sound engineer so I stay  in the music field anyway. I think I could say that my regular day turns around the fact to gain money thanx to other musicians..and then later I’ll spend that money as a musician myself for my hobby!!!

What is the best thing about Cosmic Evoked Potentials?

That is out and real!!! really..for all we said before about the pandemic and also for some more personal reasons it feels incredible that the album is out, that it turned out so well and that it seems its not only me thinking this way! Lots of people are enjoying this new one a lot and  almost every day new reviews are coming out and all incredibly good. I really think it’s our best one in terms of songs feeling and what the music seems to transmit. I’m very happy about how this time the mix between all our different influences are balanced with our own distinctive sound and songs structure. It is various and cohesive at the same time as I’ve always wanted our music to be. I want our music to take the listeners by the hands on a trip where they can be surprised sometime on what is coming next, and other times to be secure of something more familiar. Like reading a good book and arrive to the moment of turning the page not knowing if the the story on the other side will continue as expected or a huge plot twist will change the perception of everything. I think Cosmic Evoked Potential is a very good balance in this sense.

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

Every friend in bands goin  on in the underground scene for the love of create music and possibly bring it on stages for other to enjoy. Those are my heroes today at this point of my life as man and musicians.

Can you tell me about how you went about composing and recording songs differently after the last album?

For Cosmic, after 2 albums recorded in what we could call a traditional recording studio, we went back to our roots and we recorded all live, no metronome , no pre production. I took, together with my work associate in Roaming Sounds Recording, our equipment to an old mansion of late ‘1700 outside Rome. We recorded all the live parts there in 3 days and lots of thing happened actually in those 3 days!!. for example since we had spare time and we started to improvise..months later 14 minutes of that improvisation became the second track of the album ” Genziana ( improvisation 42) ” and with that I decided to take out a song that was ready and arranged before starting the recordings. I learned to keep my mind open and free because when you work a lot and for long time, as musicians and in my case also producer, you can risk to get stuck in your ideas and become inflexible. Genziana was too good to not be on the album even if that meant to take out another one that was in original plan for 2 years at that point.

What are your immediate and long term future plans? 

We hope to be able to promote Cosmic Evoked Potentials as much as we can live on stages around Italy and ourside. As I said we all have jobs etc so we cannot be around for too long time, but we will do our best if hopefully promoters and bookers will be interested to have L’IRA DEL BACCANO in their cities. Another thing that I really hope would be to finally be able to play some festivals around Europe..because as much as I love even the level that we are now, I know very well that to reach a wider audience would be vital to go on a Festival stage and until now we are not been very lucky.

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

Well..I can only suggest to try our proposal…and see if they want to start their personal trip with us! But In general, what I really feel to say to your readers curious, always..try new music, new books, new art and so you always will be prepared to be amazed by something in this life, even in a very dark day.

All the best from me and L’IRA DEL BACCANO

photos by :

Review + Q&A: Shem – III (2023, Clostridium Records)

The creative musical machine from Stuttgart, Germany, also known as the human entity of Shem has delivered a brand new slab of improvisational psychedelic sound pulsations. With their third outing, simply baptised III, they prove that good improvisational music is like wine or whiskey; it gets better with age. This makes sense of course, because improvisational music depends on experience, confidence, skill, and of course becoming a well oiled machine together. This album definitely proves Shem‘s machine-like qualities like no release of theirs did before.

On this four song album (two long form pieces, and two shorter tracks) the band presents themselves as an enigmatic device, taking its time to land on your proverbial lawn. Quite literally even, opener Paragate feels like a gigantic space ship slowly coming down, and landing on earth. You can hear the engines throbbing, the weird lights glowing, and the strange spacey noises swirl. Everything grows louder and heavier with every inch the ship gets closer to the ground, until it finally lands with a great thundering finale.

Lamentum is a short intermission from the space rock density that premieres vocals for Shem, in a “lamenting” wordless style that radiates a gloomy and enigmatic atmosphere.

Restlicht is quite a deal longer, and shows a brighter side to Shem, with a feeling you might get when the earth outside is drying after a heavy rainfall. It is a feeling that intensifies, and slowly but certainly something dark interferes, but of course we never know what is is.

The album closer and its piece de resistance is Refugium (Beyond The Gravitational Field Of Time And Space) which brings together all the elements of the tracks that came before, pumps up the gravitas, and slams it out of the park in eleven haunting minutes. It is a dark and frightening experience, with hardly audible ghost chants haunting the echo chambers of your skull while you slowly gyrate towards a wormhole and the galactic location that the title of the song suggests. It is a space ritual if there ever was one, a shamanic mantra fest that drives its reverberations deep into your subconscious and makes you radiate with it even long after it has ended.

Visualization by Dave Guerrero

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for Shem?

Hi Jasper! We’re all good, thanks!

The pandemic period has mostly been good to us on a personal level. With the world arround us slowing down, we took the chance to re-focus and take things one step at a time: Some of us moved places, others worked on their education and so forth. Also, the pandemic allowed us to finish production on a lot of the material already recorded before the lockdown. All in all a very productive period that we are probably more fond of than most people. In a way, Corona also acted as a natural caesura regarding this project: Shem before and after the pandemic – a turning point which lead to new people joining the collective and new music being created through these collaborations.

Can you introduce the band, how did you meet, etc?

Most of us have known each other since school. The rest of us joined one by one along the trip through a shared musical interest and like-mindedness. We don’t think of Shem as a static band but rather as a collective of musicians that have gathered around a “core” line-up, varying in size, instrumentation and sound for different recordings and performances.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

Music has always played a very important role to each of us, with our formative musical experiences being shaped by what was being played in our parents homes – ranging from classical music to late 60s psych, 70s prog and the sounds of the 80s. The sound of our adolescence was mostly made up of metal, punk, rap, heavy-psych and stoner rock, with each of us exploring various genres throughout the years. All of us eventually started playing instruments – some tought through classical education, others purely through autodidacticism. 

A couple of years into our 20’s we mutually discovered the Krautrock greats of the 70s and started exploring the different fields of psychedelic, experimental and improvised music. Combined with an insatiable hunger for new musical discoveries, we decided to start improvising ourselves and before we knew it we already had our first couple of hours worth of material recorded – a lot of which now bring back vivid memories of spaced out weekends in our first practice space, not a care in the world and just jamming along to whatever motive, rhythm or bass line one of us would come up with.

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

We live pretty regular lives: Working, studying and trying to create as much room as possible for our musical endeavours in between the every-day hustle.

What is the best thing about the new album?

For us, it is to realise that our musical path is always evolving and constantly reshaping. Since it’s impossible for us to predict how people will perceive the new album, we are indeed curious to hear what others will particularly like or don’t like about it.

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?

Some of us live on the southern edge of the black forest. The dark and misty woods there are a huge inspiration and also serve a place to find calmth and focus. The rest of us live in Stuttgart, South-West Germany, where a lot of bands and musicians struggle because of a dire lack of subcultural places and infrastructure – caused by what can only be described as a systematic attempt by the city council and their cronies to erase any sort of counter-cultural independence. 

It is called “Kaputtgart” (a word-play on Stuttgart and the German word for broken) for a reason. But, as they say: “Necessity is the mother of invention”. A lot of off-spaces are constantly being created by dedicated groups of people before being forced to shut down again most of the time. Luckily, we as a collective have secured a space which allows us to continue our work on Shem and related projects – one of the advantages of operating in relatively secluded area, „off the radar“ so to speak.

Can you tell me what improvisation means to Shem, and do you have tips for starting bands who would like to improvise more?

Improvisation to us means to free ourselves from any kind of expectations, to explore our gut-feelings and to reach a mutual understanding through music and sound as the only means of communication. For us, it’s a form of meditation and a cathartic rite of liberation at the same time.

As for some tips for anyone who would like to improvise more: Start with an open mind. Don’t let yourselves be framed by pre-determined ideas and “goals”. And don’t overdo it – take adequate breaks, let your creativity “recharge”, look out for new inspiration and be patient with the eventual outcome of things. 

Where does the sound come from? Can you take us to some of your inspirations? 

All of us have a wide range of influences that seem to shine through in our sound – be it psych, Krautrock, experimental music, jazz or even sludge or black metal. However, most of the time we are not really aware of how specific sounds and ideas come together to end up as a whole . We don’t think too much about how we do what we do in the way we do it. We just let things happen. And we are a bunch of weirdos – that might help. As for musical inspirations: The list would be endless and impossible to adequately prioritise.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

Get rich or try dying – just kidding. This year we are planning to play more live shows and finish up the production on the next couple of releases – everything will eventually take longer than expected, as is always the case with our projects, but that’s something we have gotten used to by now. 

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

Perhaps check out our new album or any of the other releases that are presented on Weirdo Shrine! There is an endless stream of music out there that deserves to be discovered and cherished, and by taking the time to unearth some of these hidden gems you are doing an incredibly valuable job. Thank you Jasper!

Ein Bild, das Phase, drinnen, Szene, Raum enthält.

Automatisch generierte Beschreibung

Review + Q&A: Astral Hand – Lords Of Data (2023, Romanus Records)

There aren’t a whole lot of bands that play space rock right these days. Astral Hand gets it though. This Milwaukee band has previously earned their stripes in the impressive psychedelic rock outfit Calliope, and is now ready to gather up as many disciples as possible and beam them up their space ship as they hit the ground and zoom through worm holes at warp speed. It is the perfect music to transport your head to the sci-fi 70s, where anything still seemed possible, and 2023 was a futuristic place in which space travel was surely already a reality…

Valérian and Laureline, French comic book from the 70s

There is a theatrical epicness to Lords Of Data that closely aligns them with the masters of space rock Hawkwind, but also with their contemporary modern sounding offspring and fellow Americans Farflung. It is music firmly rooted in the 70s and 80s, but deconstructed, improved, and rebuild according to modern standards. It is long hair-flying, axe-wielding, neon-lights beaming, heavy psychedelic hard rock for a modern age.

Art by Jean-Claude Mézières

Because as much as it pays homage to times gone by, Astral Hand is a modern band, that blasts at full ’00s throttle and thrust. The production value of Lords Of Data even blows most of their contemporaries out of the water. It is a rich, and fully layered sound that will need many listening sessions to fully disclose all of its secrets. Like the space explorers of the 70s, the listener will have to go on a journey and open-mindedly discover these extensive space rock vistas. Fans of the aforementioned Hawkwind, Farflung, but also contemporaries like Temple Fang, and Slift can safely put this into their pipe and smoke it.

The band was happy to introduce themselves and tell us their birthing story. Also, if you are in the neighbourhood of their native Milwaukee, it seems like there is a party you should not miss including some rad guests…but first let’s read up on Astral Hand!

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for Astral Hand?

As a band, we couldn’t be happier right now.  Previous to the advent of the Covid pandemic, we were releasing music under the name Calliope.  We eventually outgrew that and decided to really refine our sound and rebrand completely from the ground up.  We went into Howl Street Recordings here in Milwaukee in the couple months before the covid shutdowns and actually had to finish the recording remotely from our homes.  Fast forward three years and we’re at a point where we feel good releasing our record and maybe even touring again.  

Can you introduce yourself, how did you meet, etc? 

Astral Hand is Al Kraemer (keys + vox), Victor Buell (guitar), Anthony Smith (bass), and Dan Dahl (drums).  Milwaukee is a pretty small city and the scene is even smaller, so it was only a matter of time before we found our desired lineup.  We’ve all been buds since before we were even playing music together so it was all very natural.  

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

We’ve all been involved in so many various projects in Milwaukee throughout the years.  From 60’s psychedelic tunes reminiscent of The Doors and Pink Floyd to more pop-oriented, Rolling Stones-esque rock and roll.  Pepper in some experimental electronic sets, surf rock cover sets, and special tribute shows and you’ve got a pretty wild mix of influences.

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

We all have day jobs. We just deal with those and find time to get together as a band once or twice a week.

What is the best thing about Lords Of Data?

The songs on it, the album artwork and the format are in a 3-way tie. For the vinyl release, we partnered with Romanus Records, who does some incredibly creative and visually stunning things with LPs. It is the long-awaited pay-off of our years-long effort to refine our sound and image.  We’ve put a lot of time and effort into this album and we’re really excited to finally share it with the world.

Where do you live and how did your surroundings influence your music?

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.  We’ve got all 4 seasons here and winter can get pretty dark and depressing. Fortunately for us, those are great times for hiding inside and writing some dark and heavy tunes!  In the past we would try and retreat to the frozen north woods and really blast off.

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

If we’re driving to a gig, you’ll find bands like Black Mountain, Pink Floyd, The Mars Volta, Uncle Acid, blasting on the stereo. Equally influential are composers such as Vangelis, Angelo Badalamenti, and Ennio Morricone.

Can you tell me about how you went about composing and recording songs?

Sometimes someone will bring an original idea to the studio for us to work on but we often write everything together.  Lots of repetition and demo recording.  In the past we’ve recorded our own albums in whatever location we can find but Lords Of Data we recorded under the guidance of local hero, Shane Hochstetler of Howl Street Studios, and we couldn’t be happier.  

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

We have our local record release show for Lords Of Data on Friday, March 10th at the legendary Milwaukee venue, Cactus Club.  We’ve invited our oldest band-friends, Dead Feathers, up from Chicago and another local heavy-synth-goth-party act called BLOOD.  We’ve got one band member with a child on the way and another with a wedding on the horizon, so our goal is to get our record released (out on Romanus Records on March 18th), do a little regional touring, and hope for a little luck along the way.  We already the next album written, so Lords Of Data is just the introduction.    

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

On March 6th, then you’ll be able to stream the entire album on all streaming services.  If you’re in Milwaukee on March 10th, then you’ll be able to get your hands on the vinyl before it’s released to the public. Otherwise, mark your calendars for March 18th @ 3PM EST and head to to buy LORDS OF DATA on some incredible limited edition, custom vinyl.