One of the best parts of writing this blog is when a band asks me to give them a listen and they turn out to be as good as Australia’s Comacozer.
These three psych / doom / stoner rockers have crafted a fine piece of work with their album Astra Planeta. It’s five tracks (the shortest at 6:21) of instrumental spaced out riffs that range from solar wind trippy to asteroid impact heavy.
“Saurian Dream” starts off like a slippery salamander wriggling out of mud atop a fresh grave but then morphs into wavy heat mirages seen by a goanna sunning itself on a hot outback rock.
The guitar on “The Mind that Feeds the Eye” sounds almost like something from a spaghetti western score, even with the heavy delay pedals. The bass is as crisp as a bullfrog’s croak, and the drum beats snap by you like telephone poles as you cruise down a lonely road. The title reminds us that most of what we see is illusion, but what you see will be altered if your mind is altered. All great holy men and women have known and professed this. Comacozer add another page to the sermon.
I’m a sucker for ancient Egypt, so I’m not surprised that I love “Navigating the Mandjet.” The mandjet was one of the Egyptian sun god Ra’s solar boats (“The Boat of Millions of Years”), and the song would be perfect for the sound system on it. I dig the rock beat that runs through it, and the guitar and bass have a perfect Middle Eastern groove for the track.
The bass on “Illumination Cloud” sounds like something Les Claypool dreamed once. The song builds to a great cosmic rock track with some of the best guitar shredding on the record.
I don’t know if the Apophis named in “Hypnotized by Apophis” is the Egyptian snake demon of chaos with a magical gaze or the charted 325 meter-wide asteroid that might hit the Earth in 2068. The song’s perfect for either case, as it swirls with cosmic riffs ideal for flying through an asteroid belt and bass and drums ideal for battling a giant snake with a lance.
Astra Planeta is a solid record of excellent cosmic psych rock. These guys need to play at a Levitation festival, and you need to buy this album.
Psychedelic rock trio Elephant Stone have announced an impressive fall – early winter touring schedule, and lead singer / bassist / sitarist Rishi Dihr is offering a sitar lesson at each stop of the tour. You can contact him through the band’s website for details.
The band’s tour starts in their home province of Quebec and then into the Midwest, a brief stop in New York, out to the west coast, back up through Canada, and then into Europe by the time November gets here. By the way, their show on October 19th in Cincinnati is free.
Canadian psych trio Elephant Stone’s (Rishi Dihr – lead vocals, bass, sitar, and keys, Miles Dupire – drums and vocals, Gabriel Lambert – guitar and vocals) newest record, Ship of Fools, brings a new element to their fine mix of psychedelia, power pop, and Eastern Indian music – electro.
“Manipulator” comes out with strong guitar, groovy bass, and both electronic and traditional percussion. The guitar squelches on the bridge as Dihr and his backing vocalists soar, and then it turns into a bit of an industrial electro song. “Where I’m Going” continues this light electro touch with deep bass and dance floor drums, but don’t worry, there’s plenty of reverbed guitar to keep us psychedelia fans happy (and how about that great synth solo?).
I love how Dihr’s bass turns up the fuzz on “The First Stone.” I don’t know if he did it to challenge Lambert in a fuzzy guitar contest, but Lambert gleefully accepted the challenge if he did because his guitar solo sounds like it was pulled out of a beehive. The second half of the song pops open your third eye with psychedelic madness.
“Photograph” isn’t a cover of the Def Leppard hit (although that would be an interesting choice), but it is a lovely song highlighting the band’s Beatles influence with its piano work, beats, and vocal styling. Dihr’s bass takes lead on “See the Light,” and the song encourages us to look past material wealth and pettiness so we can experience the divine. The ship mentioned in the album’s title is the planet Earth, and we are the fools who spend most of our time stumbling around it instead of enjoying all it has to offer.
“Run, Sister, Run” is dreamy psych, with Dihr’s sitar floating around it like autumn leaves before it blooms into body-moving bhangra beats. After that, I can’t help but think that the wheel mentioned in “Love Is Like a Spinning Wheel” is the wheel of reincarnation. “Andromeda” is appropriately spacey. The song cuts in samples of space launch commands and seems free from gravity. It’s a wonderful track.
“The Devil’s Shelter” brings back the electro bass (so Dihr can play more sitar) and has some of Dupire’s hottest chops on the record. Alex Maas of the Black Angels provides backup vocals and they bring a cool, slightly creepy vibe to the song. It’s only right for a song that mentions Old Scratch.
The title of “Silence Can Say So Much” is one of the truest statements I’ve heard on a record. It’s lush with sitar, tabla, and chant-like vocals. The vocals on the closer, “Au Gallis,” are heavily synthesized, to the point they sound robotic as the band builds a powerful electro track behind them.
I like this new addition of electro touches. The answer to Dihr’s question on “Where I’m Going” might be “to more fans who will groove to this record and spin it in dance clubs.”
Keep your mind open.
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In case you missed it, Nashville’s Bully were the breakout hit of the first Middle Waves Festival. Bully (Alicia Bognanno – vocals and guitar, Stewart Copeland – drums [not the guy from The Police], Reece Lazarus – bass, Clayton Parker – guitar) flattened the Maumee Stage there, which shouldn’t have surprised me since their 2015 album Feels Like is so hard-hitting.
Starting with the sizzling “I Remember,” the band comes out with fury Oliver Ackermann of A Place to Bury Strangers would envy and vocals Jennifer Finch of L7 would love. If you can imagine Joy Division being a power pop band instead of goth overlords, you might be able to imagine how they could’ve made a song like “Reason.” Parker’s guitar work on it is superb.
“Too Tough” evokes the good kind of 90’s alt-rock. The kind that made good hooks and mixed them with heavy riffs and discernable vocals instead of the just screaming about how much he hates his father. Lazarus’ bass line holds the song together. I think he’s the band’s secret weapon. “Brainfreeze” follows this trend and is one of the catchiest songs on the record. “Trying” bounces back and forth between cool catchy verses and growling, shouting choruses like a forgotten Pixies song.
Lazarus’ thick bass is front and center on “Trash,” and Bognanno’s vocals are both heartfelt and even a bit frightening. I love the way the band seems to collapse into madness during the chorus, yet holds it together with expertise. Copeland’s cymbal fills are like alarm bells going off while Parker and Lazarus’ instruments run around in near-panic.
“Six” seems to be a love song sung to someone who’s depressed over the way they’re perceived by others. “Fuck those jerks,” Bognanno sings. “They don’t know you like I do.” “Picture” has great fuzz from everyone, even Bognanno’s vocals and Copeland’s drums seem to be filtered through half-broken amplifiers.
“Milkman” was Bully’s first single (released in 2014), and I still don’t know why it didn’t race across the nation like wildfire (Screw you, corporate radio!). It’s a sharp debut that captures the band’s live energy (and tight instrumentation) well. “Bully” is another wicked cut that has some of my favorite guitar work on the record. It goes from angry fuzz to pop-punk and dips its toes into the psychedelic reverb pool now and then.
“Sharktooth” is a kiss-off to an ex that brings Copeland’s drums to the front almost like a Who record and then the rest of the band builds a wall of sound like a line of War Boys cars from Mad Max: Fury Road.
It’s a fine record, and one that was being blasted in a Ft. Wayne record store the day after their Middle Waves performance. People were buzzing about them the entire second day of the festival, myself included. They and this album do what any good band or album should, make us hungry for more.
Keep your mind open.
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Fort Wayne’s first “destination” music festival, Middle Waves, was last weekend and a big hit with the crowd. Future festivals will only be better judging by how well the first one went.
I knew it was going to be at least an interesting festival when I walked into “The Village” area (where all the vendors were) looking for my press pass and saw this.
Deep fried chicken on a stick. I didn’t eat there. For my money, the best deal and food there was from the Vietnummy food truck. A bahn mi lemongrass chicken slider for only five bucks? I’m in. I’m in all day long.
Bahn mi slider in hand and press pass around my neck, I went to check out my first band of the festival – Nashville’s Bully. I’d only heard a couple tracks, and I liked their mix of heavy rock and post-punk.
They killed the Maumee Stage with a fierce performance that won over the crowd within minutes. Seeing them might be the closest I get to seeing X-Ray Spex in concert. It was full of wild guitar and drums, Cure-like bass, and frantic vocals. People were still talking about them the next day.
I finished Friday night like many others – by seeing Best Coaston the main (St. Mary’s) stage. I’ll admit that I hadn’t heard a lot of their material before this, but there were many in the crowd who sang to everything they played. I liked the blend of surf-psych with dream pop. The gay man going nuts next to me when they played “Boyfriend” was one of the highlights of the crowd for me.
Heavy rain hit the area overnight and through most of Saturday morning. I hoped it wouldn’t keep the crowds away, and I’m sure the Middle Waves staff was watching local weather radar like a hawk the entire day. One band was playing on a makeshift stage in the covered food vendor area when I got there due to the Maumee Stage being rained out that morning.
Luckily for all, however, the rain cleared around 3:00 and the sun came out bright and happy. The St. Mary’s stage field had straw scattered all over it to prevent massive mud pits from forming, so it soon smelled like a wet barn out there. You didn’t notice the smell once Jeff the Brotherhoodbegan playing, because their sonic assault almost knocked us flat.
They played several tracks from their new album, Zone, which I need to get soon. A lot of it has a great stoner rock vibe that borders a bit on doom metal. It seems heavier than some of their previous stuff, which is fine by me.
I took a break after their set to drive down to Neat Neat Neat Records(profile coming soon), and they were playing Bully. The clerk and I raved about their set and I was soon walking out with three used CDs. I made it back in time to see Ft. Wayne’s hometown psychedelic heroes – Heaven’s Gateway Drugs. They put on a fine set of their sun-soaked psych on the bank of the Maumee River to a welcoming crowd. I hadn’t realized until this set how some of their stuff sounds like early New Pornographers (which is a good thing).
I took an extra long break to get in a full meal (Smoked pulled chicken, cole slaw, and potato chips for eight bucks? Sold!) before seeing The Flaming Lips. People had been camped out all day to claim spots for the show. My favorite ones were these two.
I thought, “That’s my wife and I in twenty years.”
The Flaming Lips didn’t disappoint. It was a party from the very first song.
The crowd was jumping, singing, smacking around balloons, and cheering for lizards in yellow suits and boat captain catfish.
Their light / stage show is something you have to see to fully appreciate. Strings of lights, kaleidoscopic gongs, confetti cannons, and glitter are all thrown into the mix.
Lead singer Wayne Coyne kept the crowd cheering and moving, especially when he came out in a giant bubble during the band’s cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”
It was a great performance under a full moon, and a good omen for future festivals. The early afternoon rain was the only thing keeping the first Middle Waves festival from being an out-of-the-park home run, but that’s nothing the promoters and staff could control.
I’m sure the number of national touring acts will grow in the future, as all of the ones there this year praised the festival and the crowds. A master stroke by the festival is having two free stages. The Maumee and St. Joseph stages were free for everyone. The St. Mary’s main stage was the only one with paid admission. Anyone could’ve come to the festival with no money and still have seen twenty bands (including that jaw-dropping set by Bully, mind you).
Here’s to the future, Middle Waves. It looks good for you.
Keep your mind open.
[Many thanks to the Middle Waves staff and crew, and especially to Emma and Maggie for setting up my press credentials for the festival.]
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Don’t miss your chance to see Night Beats if you’re on the west coast. They’re hitting it hard through November and touring with Mystery Lights – a band I’ve been meaning to check out for a couple weeks now.
The Night Beats are killing it right now, and I’ve yet to see them put on a bad show. They are well worth your time and money.
Guitar / rock legend Jimmy Page has remastered the excellent double album The Complete BBC Sessions. The album drops tomorrow (September 16th) and has eight new tracks previously unreleased. The original BBC sessions album was released in 1997 as a two-disc set, but this newest edition will be three discs and contain rare versions of “You Shook Me,” “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” “Sunshine Woman,” “Communication Breakdown,” and “Dazed and Confused.” There’s also a 48-page book in the deluxe edition.
In even better news, Page has announced that he has a new album in the works. Look for it next year.
Electro duo Phantogram are set to release their third album, appropriately titled Three, on October 7th. The first single, “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore,” is a dark track about a relationship that’s lost its fire. I don’t know if the album cover image reflects that lost passion or a rekindled one, but Three will probably be one of the kinkiest records of the year. Just watch the video for “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” if you don’t believe me.
Beck‘s new album still doesn’t have an official title, but it does have a release date – October 21st. Beck has said in interviews that the new record is inspired by some of his recent live performances, and two of the first tracks released, “Wow” and “Dreams,” are lively cuts that portend a return to Beck’s upbeat funk records like Midnite Vultures and Odelay.