If there is a staircase somewhere to measure epicness in music, Elder is definitely quite high up there. Their brand of psychedelic prog rock is towering high above their peers, each song taking its time to build up carefully only to crash down on the listener with mighty waves afterwards.
Innate Passage, a passage from within (beautifully illustrated on the album cover), is Elder’s latest display of power. On it, in my mind, they hark back to the crushing heaviness of their masterpiece Lore, without losing any of their subtle progression on the albums that came after. Your head will need a little time to fully wrap itself around this “inner passage”, but when you do you will be thoroughly hooked to what probably is the highlight of heavy psychedelic prog rock this year.
The band builds a cathedral, rather than a rock album. The base is of course drums, bass, and Nick DiSalvo‘s ever impressive guitar work, but a cathedral needs more than just a solid foundation to impress. With carefully added layers of acoustic guitars, mellotron, and for the very first time some vocal help from German stoner powerhouse Samavayo‘s Behrang Alavi Elder has also added the outer and inner arches, gargoyles, and ornamental features.
Innate Passage feels like a cathedral when you enter it too, in such a way that you can wander in it for quite a while and still be amazed when you look up and scale the ceiling paintings, or when you discover new patterns in the stained glass windows. Elder awaits you at the entrance time after time, and each time seems to give you a more extensive tour.
The Weirdo Shrine travel agency of psychedelic prog tripping cannot recommend it enough…
The third and final chapter of the album threesome that King Buffalo recorded during the pandemic lockdown in 2021 is called Regenerator and once again it shows a different side to the band. Where The Burden Of Restlessness was an aggressive, heavy and metallic record, and Acheron was the psychedelic jam album, Regenerator does exactly what it says on the tin: it lifts up the spirits and revitalizes the band and its listeners with its open and spacey sounds.
Before I could listen to the full album I had the chance to see King Buffalo play at the Valkhof Festival in Nijmegen (Holland) and two things stood out; how frontman Sean McVay used a loop pedal to create massive guitar walls all by himself, and how motorik and hypnotic the new material sounded in a live setting. Songs like Regenerator, Mercury, and Hours all have a certain forward drive that has a definite kraut rock feel, especially when King Buffalo bring on the spacey synthesizers.
There are some softer, more melodic moments as well, and album closer Firmament showcases McVay’s most intimate vocals to date. This too fits the band like a glove, and once again you feel as a listener that this is a band at the very top of their game. It is so incredible to think that these three albums sound so differently and varied, and yet they were recorded in such a short time of each other. Regenerator is a perfect closer a well, a positive outlook on the band and its future, and a testament to what this band is capable off under duress. What will the future bring? I decided to ask Sean McVay himself.
How are you guys doing? And where are you at the moment? You are playing so many shows these days!
We just returned home after an incredible European tour. I’m currently sitting on my couch drinking a big bottle of water while typing out this interview.
Can you tell me your most memorable moment of the tour so far?
Probably playing PALP Festival in the Swiss Alps. It’s not everyday you get to play literally on the top of a mountain.
Listening to Regenerator, and also (finally) seeing you live (in Nijmegen!) I got the feeling that some of the dread of The Burden Of Restlessness and Acheron has been lifted, is that correct? What changed?
At the time of writing Regenerator I don’t think much had really changed in all honesty. Things were still pretty much locked down, and the world continues to be a bit of a horrific mess in a lot of different ways even still, but I knew I wanted the 3rd record to wrap up with a more optimistic tone and kind of stand as an inverse to Burden. With how dark and grim that record was, I felt like it was necessary to counterbalance it with something brighter, if only for my own sanity while writing them honestly. I feel like it was maybe me trying to find something to look forward to and strive for while reckoning with a swath of negative things.
You guys are playing live a lot at the moment, how do you keep up? And how do you keep it fresh each time you are playing?
We make little tweaks to the setlist just about every show to help keep things interesting on our end. Also a lot of our songs have spots that lend themselves to little bits of improvisation so I always try to add some sort of different twist to at least one song every night. The kind of thing that might not be super noticeable, but maybe a fan who’s seen us a bunch would notice and find it interesting or refreshing. Shows are the best thing about being a band in my opinion. That block of time onstage riding a sort of energy wave with the crowd is a feeling like no other. So really it doesn’t feel like its that hard to stay engaged and excited.
Listening to your set and to the new album I felt a certain stronger emphasis on repetition and groove I guess?It’s almost kraut rock at some point! Also some more uplifting stuff going on? What is your take on the most important changes for Regenerator?
I really made an effort to highlight melodies on this record. Whether that was in the vocals, guitar hooks or even with some of Dan’s bass work (see Mercury for an example of the bass really carrying the melody of the entire song). I wanted to go for a little bit more of a stripped down, sort of “band in a room” sound than previous records (especially Burden). Everything is a little bit warmer, a little bit dirtier, and a little bit drier than a lot of our previous work. I cringe at using the word “organic” to describe it, but I honestly can’t think of a better word for what I was aiming for with the production style haha. It was a challenge, and a bit scary for me personally. I’ve always been super fond of lots of reverbs and delays on either my guitars or vocals. Making a conscious effort to strip away some of that was a bit terrifying. The opening verse of Firmament is probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever recorded.
With Regenerator you made right on your promise to release three albums in a row, congratulations! Although the plan to release them all in one year did not work, was that all pressing plant delays, or was there more to it?
Well the initial plan was actually to RECORD 3 albums in 2021 and ideally have them all released that year. Things snowballed a little bit with the announcement and it became RELEASE 3 albums haha. Lesson learned to be a little more careful with language haha. With that said, I can’t put all of the delays on the pressing plant. They were certainly backed up and completely swamped with demand. That on top of global supply chain issues really slowed things down. But we also had some studio/equipment issues that slowed down production at a couple points. There were of course a couple COVID scares in there that prevented us from meeting up occasionally. And we had a couple of issues receiving final artwork for a couple of the records past their deadline. So basically there was a lot of small inconvenient delays that added up on top of the already existing pressing plant delays. It was an absolutely chaotic and hectic year trying to get everything done, but we are super happy that we were able to stay busy and focused, and are incredibly proud of the result. We can’t thank everyone enough who participated and helped in some way, and especially appreciate the patience and support from our fans when it became obvious that we weren’t going to have everything released in 2021.
How do you look back on the albums as a trilogy, they have the same protagonist and overarching themes right? Do you feel it turned out exactly the way you envisioned it or did the plans also shift a bit when time passed over it?
There definitely is a single protagonist, with an overarching storyline encompassing all 3 records. Each record focusing on a different part of the story. In a very general way, yes I think it turned out how I envisioned it, but in smaller more specific ways not at all. No matter how well planned something is during pre-production, the final product always comes out different than expected. That’s simply part of the process. I think its important to be open to the possibility of things changing. Falling too much in love with the demos creates a sort of tension and stress during the actual production that just slows things down. It’s important to have a grand vision that your excited about, but you have to be open to changes when it comes time to actually make it. So there a lot of little things on the records that are completely different than what was initially conceived, but that’s simply part of the process.
So what now? With such an ambitious project now finished I can imagine your just want to tour a lot, which you are doing at the moment, but do you already have album plans for after that? Any dreams you want to make true in the studio environment?
The focus for now is definitely touring and playing live, especially with all the time we had to take off from touring. There aren’t any solid albums planned at the moment. There’s definitely some stuff that was left on the cutting room floor that we’re still excited about. Who knows if they’ll ever get dug back up. We’re always a little bit antsy. So I’ll say that we don’t have anything planned release wise for now, but that can always change in an instant haha.
What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do after reading this interview?
Once again we enter the Motorpsycho realm. If you have not been living under a rock the past twenty years you know what kind of realm that is. It is a world in which anything is possible, at any given time. The only determining factor is the creative flow that Snah, Bent, and Tomas are picking up at the time they press “record”. The result often is surprising, breathtaking, engaging, and always an adventurous trip.
“So different all yet still the same//all travellers on the astral plane…“
Opener The Ladder takes its time to built momentum and then starts out with a familiar heavy riff reminiscent of the more heavy rocking moments on Kingdom Of Oblivion and the Gulvag Trilogy. But it fully takes use of its six-plus minutes building up with the theatric mellotron madness Motorpsycho has been making their trademark for some time now.
Next track The Flower Of Awareness is a bit of an intermission affair, building up its ambient noise soundtrack for two minutes, mostly to prepare the listener for the next full song.
“Some say shit, some say sublime, a quest, a deep dark crime…“
Which is Mona Lisa Azrael, a song that starts off very sensitive and serene, and quite beautiful. It almost becomes an archetypical love song and ballad, but just as Motorpsycho skillfully lulled you into a daze they throw a fire cracker on the fire by quickly spiraling out of control and turning into a hot and hip shaking jam fest. It conjures up images of The Mars Volta kicking up full salsa mode, never caring about anything else then following that muse, and worshipping the god of letting it flow on waves of extremely flammable improvisation. It is this kind of completely flipping the mood and going from calm and sensitive to absolutely crazy freak jazz jam rock that makes Motorpsycho stand out from so many others. It is a band at the very top of their game, caring about nothing else than that game, and winning it all the way.
To prove the point of creative independence the fourth and final track is a breathtaking 20+ minute affair called Chariots Of The Sun- To Phaeton On The Occasion Of Sunrise (Theme From An Imagined Movie). The song takes its time to introduce itself in a style that fits the title; gentle, soundtrack like, very slowly but steadily building up to the choral vocals in the first five minutes. A minute later the guitars kick in and the trip is finally ready to take off, still building and gathering steam for a good six more minutes until culminating in the grande finale. After the grande finale there is a big comedown to reflect on what just happened. Is it strange to go through twenty minutes of your favorite band jamming at full force and not notice the lack of lyrics for a second? Not if that favorite band is Motorpsycho, who could not write a dull piece of music if they tried.It is thoughts like these that shoot through my mind during this time. The choral voices pick up again and lead up to a final sweeping goodbye, and then the album is over.
Thanks again for another great trip Motorpsycho. In a world of so much instability, hypes, and crises it is a blessing to have you churning out so many magical jam sessions like this. Keep ‘m going guys, the Weirdo Shrine will always welcome them with ears wide open.
To my great surprise and delight the band was available for interviews, even for obscure and teeny tiny fanzines like this one! A long cherished wish came true as I fired these questions at bassist/vocalist Bent Saether who proved a funny and enthusiastic writer himself!
Hi Bent! How are all of you doing these days? I am so thrilled that you wanted to do this interview! Hey, no sweat! we are, as usual, taking most of July of from band work, and I am chilling in the sun on an island in the Oslo fjord with the family for two weeks, feeling blessed and sunburned in equal measures while waiting for the new album to be released. what the others are up to, I have no idea! Can you sketch Motorpsycho’s current living situation when you’re not on tour? I imagine you guys live close to each other and a studio, right? You have been so prolific! Well, the three of us (with families) all live in Trondheim (Reine is in Stockholm), in an old converted farm building with three separate living quarters, where the barn is converted into a studio/rehearsal room. my wife is the manager, Snah’s the cook/psychologist, and Tomas’ girlfriend the babysitter/teacher. There used to be a lot more communal activity, but these days we mostly do dinner etc separately. rituals are obviously obligatory for all.work hours are from 10 in the morning and for as long as we have focus. usually until 14 15-ish. this way we get a lot of work done
Have you always built your home situations around the band? Has it always been your main focus? more or less. practical and also extremely focused. Snah and I met in high school and have never had outside jobs since starting the band in 1989. extremely lucky, we know, but also a result of putting everything into it.
Can we go back in time a little bit? Can you take me back to before you started working on the “Gulvag Trilogy”? Did you oversee it would lead to all this music it actually became? Because apart from the three albums Kingdom Of Oblivion also stems from those recordings, right? whoo, big question, but I’ll try! Kenneth K quit after the 2016 spring tour. not unexpected, but still rough. we had some theatre work lined up for the summer/fall that year, and dove deep into that while contemplating the future and writing more songs. Tomas got in touch in December. we played for a bit and soon figured this would work. we rehearsed that winter before starting recording The Tower in California in March 2017. those songs were the most finished ones we had, and most of them were written after KK left, but there was no overarching theme as such – except for the political one that was unavoidable with the rise of Trump. another new aspect at this time was the artwork. Kim Hiorthøi did most of our covers from 1994 until Here Be Monsters (2016), but the last few covers he did for us felt like they belonged in a different reality to the one we felt we existed in, and on this new album we started working with designer Håvard Gjelseth instead. while discussing possible artists I mentioned Gullvåg. Håvard really liked that idea and organized it so that we got to use existing art for The Tower and The Crucible and that Gullvåg painted the cover for The All Is One on spec. It was perfect for us and for those albums, but three was enough – we didn’t want a Snaggletooth/Eddie thing to develop and ended it there. except for a synchronicity in feel, and it being a total honor to work with him, there is no other theme to this ‘Gullvåg trilogy’ than his art. the songs were written all the way through the period, and were not from some big pool we had going in. but the albums do feel like they belong together and it was a strong presentation that we are very happy with! to go on from the Gullvåg albums, we felt we needed contrast, and Malling is pretty much as technically far away from Gullvåg as you can get! Great drawing though, and a really memorable and evocative cover!Kingdom of Oblivion was – like almost all our records – not recorded in one spot at one time: it had recordings from a two year period on it, but it was in no way a compilation of leftovers or any such thing: it was a full blown proper album that took the mayhem and riffage further but also had moments of quiet and beauty. to me it is perhaps the best balanced of the four albums we’d done with Tomas so far. the new one is still to close for me to say anything smart about, but it is very much a snap shot of where we were – mentally, groupwise – the week we recorded it, and it feels like the world felt to us in the summer of 2021. as an artist you can’t ask for more than that. The pictures on the cover were taken the week before the album was recorded and helps show what it felt like to us. we hope! and that is new: we have not been on the cover of many of our albums before! How do you relate Ancient Astronauts to what yo did with the Gulvag Trilogy? It feels somehow more open, flowing and “jammy”, did it exist more out of a free form approach? well, it is less dense, for sure! one of producer Deathprod’s bit things was to make it open sounding, so it is a bit more sparse, with fewer instruments on it than usual, and since the two longest songs were arranged while developing a dance performance, they are not compact pop structures at all, but rather more meandering and exploratory structures we hoped would suit the occasion. since this is kinda what we like doing the best anyhow, it felt very natural. but the album has a vibe of its own, and since it is a rather short album, it doesn’t outstay its welcome either. ‘leave them wanting more’ is an old showbiz adage, and a true one in this case!
These days Motorpsycho would be more categorized in “psychedelic” music, but it wasn’t always that way. Is this scene where you most feel at home? I bet being as self-minded as you guys are it could sometimes feel like you did not belong anywhere at all…did it ever feel lonely? we never felt comfortable being a part of anyone else’s club or scene or … what have you. even today we find it extremely awkward to play genre-specific festivals, and are never less eager to pile on the riffs than when playing e.g. a ‘stoner’ festival. to paraphrase Groucho Marx: ‘we don’t want to be a part of a club that would want a band like us as a member’! since we hate being told what to be or indeed who we are more than anything, we always intuitively go against the grain if given the chance. we are not two-dimensional entertainment puppets, but hope and try to be three-dimensional humans in all our work. and we only ever play motorpsychodelic music :-)( i also think that if you go into music for the community spirit you are on the wrong track: this biz is full of self obsessed ego maniacs who don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves. at least we don’t rely on them for our sense of self! )
With Ancient Astronauts you lyrically take up some big themes, like the arch angel Azrael, and Phaeton out of Greek mythology…where do those subjects come from? And how do they relate to our current world? the dance performance was called ‘Sacrificing’ so I wanted relatable themes for the lyrics/titles. these somehow showed up in my head, made sense in some way, and stuck it is easier to deal in myths and archetypes than in personal specifics when the musical structures are as big as these too, so that is an important reason why these made sense to use. such references are more open and interpretable than very personal stuff, which is what you want, and since themes like these are eternal they are always as current (or not), so i guess it depends on the listener how relatable they are to our world? You have played live so much and in such different ways and places too, is there anything you till dream about in that area? The next one! always and only the next one, because that is the first chance to find meaning through art that is available to us. every night is a new chance to experience transcendence through music, and there is nothing more rewarding than that. where it happens doesn’t matter. we’d like to play more and in more places, but have no ‘Big Gig’ dreams.
What advice would you give a new and upcoming band/artist that looks up to Motorpsycho? do not trust every story we tell to be 100% factual! we lie. a lot. some of the answers in this interview is total bullshit, but are more fun to read and more inspirational to any young band/artist than the truth would’ve been. when we don’t lie, we always try to tell the truth. always be honest in your art though: that is the only thing that matters.
What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do immediately after this interview? laugh at it and think ‘what a pretentious git’, then listen to our music to see if it doesn’t all make a little sense anyway. maybe?or go kiss their girl-/boyfriend before making some art of their own. that’d be better!
Earlier this year in May I reviewed King Buffalo’s masterpiece The Burden Of Restlessness and talked with singer/guitarist Sean McVey about it. He promised us two more records then, and true to his word follow up Acheron is released this winter, and a third record will follow somewhere early next year. It is one the few upsides to these horrible pandemic years, that musicians like King Buffalo had nothing better to do than jam by themselves a lot and make lots of new music for us to enjoy and soothe our mangled spirits somewhat.
Acheron was recorded in a jam session in a dark cave with the band focussing less on songwriting and more on atmosphere and dynamics, resulting in four long songs all clocking in around ten minutes. They show King Buffalo at their most contemplative and inward, subconsciously reminding of their brilliant Repeater EP. It is definitely music to loosen your mind to, and let your thoughts float freely, guided by the sparse use of vocals, and the meandering jams.
What strikes me most upon listening more closely is that where on The Burden Of Restlessness the band was a lot more open and direct both in their songwriting and in their lyrics, with Acheron the band and lyric writer Sean McVey return to more distant sketches and natural symbolism to express their mood. It makes the record a much more “heady” affair, inviting the listeners more to create their own images and meaning. For me personally it is a more distant experience than The Burden, which was one of those rare pieces of arts that hit me directly in the feels. I felt related to it instantly, whereas Acheron is a piece of music that dig a lot, I still love their sound and I love the way it pulls me into the music and trips me out for ten minutes per song, yet it doesn’t touch me as personally as King Buffalo did before.
That does not make it any less of a musical endeavor though. Nor do I think there can be too much of a good thing when it comes to artists like King Buffalo. With a record like Acheron they made us jam with them in a dark room with them and turn a moment of isolation into a deep creative experience. What is not to love about that?
A musician always strives to transcend base notions like genre, style, or even being a band. Becoming your own entity is the highest goal. King Buffalo are well on their way of achieving this goal. With The Burden Of Restlessness they have captured a period in time and a process of inner turmoil in such a way that it completely transcends being a stoner band, playing heavy songs, or being “metal” or whatever.
Sure, these songs are heavy, heavier than King Buffalo have sounded so far, and sure their music still finds itself somewhere between psychedelic rock and progressive metal, but other than that they have firmly founded themselves as their own beast.
Striking for this release especially are the lyrics. For someone who has dealt with depression and inner darkness like me they really hit hard, being more explicit than ever with phrases like “every night I dream a million different ways for me to die” (Hebetation), or the way they describe the walls closing in in Silverfish (I think I’m unraveling…). It’s this amazing vulnerability that the band shows that immensely increases their urgency and importance. The music supports the lyrics and the message, and feels like a vessel in which the lyrics are never an afterthought or just backdrop.
It’s quite unbelievable that The Burden Of Restlessness is only just the first record of three (!) that King Buffalo has planned this year. It would have done fine as a full standalone album, but clearly the band is not yet done talking. As a matter of fact: I wasn’t done talking to them either, because I spoke with singer/guitairst Sean McVay about the past year, about the new album, and what is still to come…
First of all I’d like to ask you how you all are right now, how have the past few months been for the band? We’re all doing well. We’ve managed to stay healthy and extremely busy, which has been great.
I have listened to The Burden Of Restlessness non-stop since I got the stream. The first thing that struck me was that the music sounds a lot heavier and more aggressive, more towards progmetal than psychedelic blues. Would you agree and do you have an explanation for it? I think the past few years have been difficult for everyone (to say the least). I know for me, personally I was dealing with a lot of things and was in a dark place, and the pandemic really just magnified that. I found that in the course of writing and jamming, we were naturally delving into some more focused and heavy sounding territory. For me it was simply what felt right in that moment. I liked the idea of trying to create music that had some of the same feelings of tension and discomfort that I felt was universal at that time, so we really embraced it.
I was also wondering about the lyrics: did you write before or after the music? How did the songwriting process take place any way, what was the setting? All the instrumental arrangements came before the lyrics, but there was usually a line or a phrase of lyrics in the background while sorting all that out. About 95% of all the music came from jamming. We’d simply hit record and play until things either fizzled out or fell apart. I’d take the recordings home and start cutting things and moving sections around. I would send stuff to the band for feedback, and would start putting together the lyrical themes and concepts for the record. Once we had those set, I’d record some improvised vocal mumblings over the instrumental, refining the melodies, and would send those, along with some lyrics and general themes to Scott who would then write a bunch of brainstormed lyrics and send them back to me. I’d then take what he wrote and rework it. We’d go back and forth like that until it was all written.
The lyrics made me worry a little bit to be honest. Having suffered from depression myself I can see a lot of that back in a lot of these songs. Can I say you have never been this explicit before? I saw a glimpse of it in the Repeater EP, but Longing To Be The Mountain was a bit more hopeful(or hidden) wasn’t it? What can/do you want to tell me about them? Well like I mentioned above, I was in a really dark place at the time. A few years ago I had some really intense family things come to light that I really struggled to deal with. Externally, the state of affairs in the US was getting increasingly horrifying, bizarre and dystopian… and on top of all that, a worldwide pandemic hit. The cacophony of everything felt so palpable and inescapable. Trying to write about anything else just felt disingenuous, and trying to nibble around the edges and speak ambiguously felt dishonest. I tend to be a pretty private person when it comes to this sort of thing, so making this open and candid of a record was extremely scary for me. In the end though I am incredibly proud of this record, and hopefully it speaks to at least one other person who maybe was struggling with similar things.
Despite, or maybe due to this Covid period you have taken up the plan of recording three albums this year! Can you tell me a little bit about how this plan came to being? Is there an individual concept for each of these three albums? Is it all worked out yet? We certainly didn’t set out with this whole crazy idea in mind. We started jamming, and before we knew it we had about 4-5 hours of new material that we were excited about. We started whittling things down, and eventually settled on the idea of 3 different and distinct records, with the same protagonist throughout each one. Each record has a very different feel and sound to them, and there is a story arc through all of them, but they really don’t need to be listened to in sequence to be able to follow along in my opinion. Record number 2 is in the later post production phase now, and pre production on record 3 will start here quite soon. Unfortunately I can’t say much more than that at the moment. We will be making announcements as we can. We did just receive word recently that our pressing plant is experiencing delays due to aftereffects of the pandemic, and high order volumes, so we’re crossing our fingers that things get back on track and our whole plan doesn’t get too messed up.
What was the main driving factor behind making this album? And in what way did it differ from your previous work? For me the main driving force behind this record was trying to capture the uneasiness of everything I was feeling at the time. I wanted to try and make our most intimate, honest and aggressive record yet, and I wanted it to sound thicker, and more present than any of our previous works.
Did you guys listen to specific music over the last year? And do you keep up with new music at all? We do keep up with new music, but I can’t speak to what the other guys have been listening to. As for myself, I really haven’t been listening to all that much music lately. I tend to try and limit my listening during writing periods because I feel like I end up accidentally regurgitating too many things if I’m not careful. However, one band that I stumbled across recently that absolutely blew my mind was Guerrilla Toss. They are insane.
What are your plans for after this year? And what is your ultimate dream as a band? Hopefully things keep trending positively and we can get back to touring. We’re scheduled to hit the road again in September and we are super stoked for it. Honestly I don’t know if the “ultimate dream” is much different than what we’ve usually done. I just want to keep making records that push and excite us as musicians, and I want to be able to tour and perform live. Hopefully its something we’ll get to do for a long time.
Well, I really hope I will see you on the road soon. I will definitely show up somewhere in Europe when you get there in the future. Thanks a lot for your time, I wish you all the best. Thank you! We’re definitely itching to get back over to Europe as soon as we can. In the meantime stay safe and heathy, and hopefully we’ll see you soon!
The cover of the new Motorpsycho record depicts mankind dead, covered in mushrooms, ready to be absorbed by nature and forgotten. We had our chance, we fucked up, we created this kingdom and will now slowly decay into oblivion. A harsh image, perhaps harsher then you might expect from these Norwegian progressive rock travellers, but then again, the planet is warming up, there is a pandemic going on, and it’s not like they haven’t warned us before…
Keep my sky blue//I know I need to//keep my hopes alive…
And yet there is hope. Motorpsycho have once again summoned all their powers to tell us we can still change. They have spent the last four years completing their amazing trilogy The Tower, The Crucible, and The All Is One, and still they have found the creative energy to create another sonic warning sign. Personally I was a bit sceptic at first, because with a band this prolific surely there would be a moment when they have said everything they needed to say and they would start repeating themselves, but no.
Make your choices, choose wise choose well…
Kingdom Of Oblivion sounds very like the modern Motorpsycho you have come to know these past five/six years, and yet it doesn’t repeat anything. The songwriting is more on point than the looser jams of the trilogy, more riff based too. There are some really heavy 70s fueled guitar bangers like the title track and the USA critical The United Debased and perhaps the biggest and heaviest track they ever wrote both in title and in length: The Transmutation Of Cosmoctopus Lurker. As we know Motorpsycho, the influences are all over the place, ranging from early King Crimson tentacular prog to heavy Black Sabbath stomping, to subtler indie songwriting, and a lot in between. Perhaps the biggest reason why it is such a treat to listen to everything they do is the sheer joy they put in it, the craftsmanship on display, and yet the effortlessness of the performance. Taking all into account it is quite unbelievable Motorpsycho is able to produce so much quality music in so little time, but they do.
Give me my liberty or give me dead//give me my coke and my crystal meth//along with my booze until my last breath…
Halfway through the album there’s a Floydian The Wall-like intermezzo with a creepy voice contemplating and warning: this is the end now, this is the end now, this is the end now…the album goes on though, and while song titles like Dreamkiller and At Empire’s End echo this prophecy of doom, you can’t help thinking Motorpsycho still see some light at the end of the tunnel. They found the fuel to warn us once more, more formidable and powerful than ever, so maybe now we’ll listen. If we don’t, then mankind will definitely have its Kingdom Of Oblivion.
The point of no return has finally passed, pushed over the edge…
Motorpsycho at least spoke out, had their say. It might not be too late for us. But if it is, and some future civilization will dig out this record they will hear a perfect echo of what this age of man was about: what great powers of creation we possess, and what great powers of destruction at the same time. Kingdom Of Oblivion feels like a band building a legacy, and I can’t find a more urgent and incredible album to listen to at this moment in time.
It’s 2021; when you were born in the ’80s like me, growing up with movies like Back To The Future and Mad Max, it definitely sounds futuristic and far away. And yet, here we are: no flying cars, no dystopian wasteland (not yet, anyways), and musicians haven’t been replaced by robots. On the contrary! When you start listening to this new album by Needlepoint it’s almost as if the past sixty years have never existed at all…
Walking Up That Valley is a lovely record if you love spinning your old prog and folkrock albums. Albums like the first couple of Yes records, or Gentle Giant’s not too heavy progressive noodlings. It’s music like a warm blanket; familiar, cozy, non-offensive, polite, even. That almost sounds off-putting, like there is no edge to their sound, but I really mean it in the most positive sense. Nor is it fair to just mention the retro aspects of Needlepoint. For as their sound is firmly rooted in the 70s, there is an indie side to them that would perhaps just as easily link them to a band like Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and of course to the mellower works of their fellow Norsemen Motorpsycho.
And then there is the drummer. Olaf Olsen is, very much in line with the rest of the band, a jazz beast in disguise. Just check out opener Rules Of A Madman, where all seems merry and steady at the start of the song, but later on something stirs in the air and then he just bursts into a jaw-dropping drum fill that sets the whole scene on fire. To be honest, the rest of the musicians are top of their game too, but I keep returning for those jazzy drum fills…
From the hand-drawn artwork depicting a man being picked up by ants, to the different shades of retro prog in the music, Walking Up That Valley makes me happy. These highly skilled musicians and their artistic fire are just the spirit-lifting these dire times need.