New York Music Daily

Love's the Only Engine of Survival

Category: stoner music

An AC/DC Cover Album Worth Owning?

A lot of people forget that when AC/DC first hit these shores back in the late 70s, they got filed in the punk bins. The difference was that Angus Young was faster than most of the punk lead guitarists. Otherwise, AC/DC songs are easy to play, as anyone who cut their teeth learning this stuff will tell you.

So is there any reason why you would want to own a cover album like the new double vinyl compilation Best of AC/DC [Redux], or spin it at Bandcamp? For one, the bands are killer, and the new versions are surprisingly original. In case anyone is wondering how you might possibly do anything interesting with an AC/DC cover, this is your answer. And while most of the singers on last year’s editions of the Redux cover compilations decided to channel their inner Ozzy, the guys in these bands aren’t trying to be Bon Scott, or Brian Johnson, or…there was another guy after him, right?

Witchskull kick off the album with the prototypical four-on-the-floor riff-rocker Sin City, peaking out with an appropriately unhinged Marcus De Pasquale guitar solo before a sudden bass break. Likewise, Supersuckers’ Overdose takes the over-the-top shredding to the next level of WTF.

Kal-El‘s remake of It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N Roll) is crunchier and sludgier: the organ track is an unexpectedly cool touch, even if it isn’t as insanely ridiculous as Greta Gertler‘s ukulele version. Mos Generator’s Tony Reed teams with Fu Manchu’s Bob Balch to reinvent What’s Next to the Moon as spare, sinister 80s goth rock: who would have thought? Ghost Ship Ritual‘s epic, ornate version of The Razors Edge is just as radical, and arguably the best song on the record.

One of the innumerable funny things about AC/DC is that despite Angus Young’s distaste for Ron Wood’s guitar playing, a lot of early AC/DC is awfully close to Ron Wood-era Stones. And some of those songs are here. But Kryptograf‘s Bad Boy Boogie ends a lot closer to the band’s Highway to Hell peak. And Solace do Whole Lotta Rosie as bad-to-the-bone boogie, with a deliriously good guitar duel out.

Blue Heron play Walk All Over You as Melvins-style sludge. Riff Lord‘s For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) is arguably heavier and a lot more dense than the original. Red Mesa‘s If You Want Blood is the closest thing to the original here – if it ain’t broke, right?

Caustic Casanova‘s take of Dog Eat Dog is closer to X, less over-the-top than the way cult favorite female-fronted New York AC/DC cover band Big Balls would do it. Fueled by drummer Rubin Badillo’s spot-on rolls, Electric Frankenstein play High Voltage as the Dead Boys would have. Domkraft wind up the record with a characteristically bludgeoning take of Night Prowler, AC/DC’s shameless ripoff of the Stones’ Midnight Rambler. All this makes you feel like a kid again: drop the needle and pick up your axe.

Daxma’s New Album: Unlimited Shades of Grey

Bay area band Daxma play hypnotic, melancholy slowcore, akin to a missing link between Godspeed You Black Emperor and My Bloody Valentine. Vocals serve more of an instrumental than lyrical role in this music, such that there are any here. Their new album Unmarked Boxes is streaming at Bandcamp. Other than the occasional screaming guitar burst or tumbling drum riff, the pall never lifts: if grey is your color, this is your sound. Love it or hate it, it’s hard to argue with how accurately this band reflect the past twenty months’ interminable, oppressive gloom.

The first track, The Clouds Parted begins with a broodingly anthemic, looping piano riff, then the guitar crunch kicks in and the dirge is on, but with more of an opaque My Bloody Valentine feel. The band shift gears to a Dark Side of the Moon clang that grows more insistent yet hypnotic as the bass takes over the melody. The MBV cyclotron returns, interchanging with moments of minimalist calm throughout the rest of the song’s almost fourteen minutes. It sets the stage for the rest of the album’s longer tracks.

The second cut is And the Earth Swallowed Our Shadows, rainy-day guitar loops within an increasingly dense fog punctuated by aching washes of tremolo-picking. It ends calmly and stately.

The grey-sky ambience looms closer and closer to the growling bass riff that anchors the epic Hiraeth: as the tableau slowly unfolds, it’s like Mogwai covering the Cure at quarterspeed. Suadade is aptly titled: it’s more sparse, beyond the interlude where the stormclouds come sweeping past.

Anything You Lose begins with one of the album’s catchiest passages, then the melody and textures grow more densely immersive. The final track, Comes Back to Another Form, contrasts the album’s quietest sections with its most raging, sustained peak.

The Lucky Thirteenth Volume of the Brown Acid Heavy Psych Compilations Is Out Today

Over the course of a dozen compilations, the tireless crate diggers behind the Brown Acid series have unearthed innumerable rare heavy psychedelic, heavy soul and proto-metal singles and deep cuts. At what point is the bowl finally played? Where does the trip wind down to the point where it’s time to kill what’s left of the case of beer and crash? Not now. The Thirteenth Trip is out on vinyl today and streaming at Bandcamp.

Previous compilations have spanned from the late 60s to as recently as 1981. The year 1972 is a big one for this playlist. The first cut is Run Run, a riff-rock curio by Montreal band Max. Nice high-midrange guitars, barely passable English lyrics, such that there are any.

Ralph Williams’ Dark Street immediately validates the Brown Acid esthetic, a lithely pulsing heavy blues with some tantalizingly tasty lead guitar work. “Dark street, you are my life,” Williams asserts, even if “I haven’t got a single thing to eat.”

Third Side, by Geyda, is a mostly one-chord Spooky Tooth-style number: skittish drums, minor sixth chords. In a primitive way, it embraces non-binary thinking. No joke.

Gary Del Vecchio’s Buzzin is a feast of sizzling riffage, overdubbed call-and-response style in each channel: as the liner notes tell it, he was the lead guitarist on the Max single. John Kitko’s 1972 acid rock gem Indecision obviously took even more time in the studio for the icepick-precise lead guitar multitracks: bizarrely, it ends cold, seemingly cut off. Did the master tape run out, or break off? We’ll probably never know.

Tampa band Bacchus’ 1972 single Hope is a heavier take on what the Doors did with Roadhouse Blues: they would go on to become Fortress, who had some success with their 1981 album Hands In The Till.

“How can I live without this disease, yeah?” Master Danse’s singer intones in the Detroit band’s monstrous 1972 blues Feelin Dead. It’s both a tribute to the band’s Detroit roots, and one of the most venomous anti-Boston songs ever written. Vengeance would be on the Murder City’s side that year: Red Sox manager Eddie Kasko started a rookie against the Tigers in a pivotal late-season game, with disastrous results.

Orchid’s Go Big Red is one of the great mindfucks that pop up here and there throughout the Brown Acid series. It’s a squeaky-clean garage-pop song with a couple of fuzztone guitar breaks that sound so improbable, it’s as if some studio stoner decided to overdub them just to fuck with the band…or to get them to pay for their time.

These compilations also occasionally feature a novelty song or two. Dry Ice’s garagey Don’t Munkey with the Funky Skunky speaks for itself, a cheap attempt at what Brownsville Station would do much more effectively with Smokin in the Boys Room. The last song on the record is Good Humore’s souped-up soul shout-out to their Detroit home turf.

In a very auspicious development, Riding Easy Records is launching a new series focusing on rare 80s metal. That promises to be even more of a gold mine, considering how advances in low-budget cassette recording fueled an explosion of both studio and live material.

A Killer Halloween Multi-Band Extravaganza in Sioux Falls

All it takes is a brief exposure to the free world outside New York to realize the ugly truth that music is way better there. And not just because concerts that everybody can go to actually exist once you leave the five boroughs. Case in point: the five-band Metalween extravaganza in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on the 30th. It’s a stadium-worthy lineup in a comfortable, inexpensive club with cheap beer. The show is ten bucks and starts at 8 at Bigs Bar, at 3110 W. 12th St.

The opening act, slowcore Egyptian expats Grave Solace are cinematic, hypnotic and savagely gloomy: the hammer blows only hit every few seconds. Their dirges have organ and tolling-bell piano along with all of the slow, resonant guitar changes: in Egypt, people smoke a lot of hash.

At 9, the brilliant, politically sharp, antiauthoritarian Silence Is Madness unleash their wildly diverse blend of stoner boogie-influenced sounds, ornate art-rock, heavy psychedelia and conscious hip-hop metal. The next act are a trip to the parking lot. After that, there’s Agony of Defeat, who play a mix of 80s-style goth and industrial metal with hip-hop lyrics: ironically, like Insane Clown Posse with less of a Halloween vibe .

At midnight, Sioux Falls’ own Pray for Villains headline. Their debut ep is up at Bandcamp as a name-your-price download. Just when you think the first track, Ego, is going to be a funereal epic, they pick it up, thrash it and bring it home symphonically. Track two, The Lesson veers between distant 90s metalfunk influences, machinegunning thrash riffage, a bizarrely pastoral psychedelic interlude and a pagan feast of furious fret-tapping.

Sweet Vengeance, the final, apocalyptic freedom fighter anthem on the Bandcamp page, has trickier rhythms and doomier changes. With the download, you also get Saving Face, a more straight-ahead, catchy Priest-like track. Pray these villains make it to the east coast someday…or that this blog escapes New York for the Black Hills.

Yo La Tengo Return to Central Park on the First of the Month: Are You Game?

Yo La Tengo are playing Central Park Summerstage on Oct 1 at around 8:30 PM. In a normal world, that’s cause for celebration, if you’re a fan of crazed, noisy psychedelic guitar jams, or the quieter, more reflective post-Velvets sound the band have turned more and more to since the turn of the century.

But this year this city’s creepy, homicidal mayor has thrust us into the New Abnormal, where proof of a lethal injection is required for entry. So that means we have to listen from outside. It’s not such a big deal:  if you’ve seen any number of shows here, chances are there was probably some instance where you didn’t get to the arena early enough to get in. Obviously, it would be fun to be able to watch Ira Kaplan’s guitar-torturing, but there’s still plenty of room on the slope out back, the sound carries well, and if you want you can catch a glimpse of the band from the sidewalk on the east side near the entrance. This blog was there for Patti Smith last weekend and while it would have been more fun to be able to hear what she said to the audience, the songs came through loud and clear.

The last time Yo La Tengo played the park, it was on a muggy Monday night in July of 2017. Kaplan sized up the capacity crowd and reflected with just the hint of contempt about free concerts he’d attended here as a kid: “Sha Na Na. Pure Prairie League. Mahavishnu Orchestra.” And then launched into a sarcastic bit of the Ace Frehley novelty hit New York Groove.

That didn’t last long. The show was a characteristic mix of paint-peeling squall over hypnotic, practically mantra-like vamps, and spare, reflective, airy songs that matched the hazy atmosphere. Kaplan’s antics are a little more subdued than they were back in the 90s, but there were plenty of beautifully ugly interludes where he’d go to his knees, shaking and bending at the neck of his guitar, sticking it into his amp or just leaving it to feed there. There was at least one point where he left the guitar feeding and then picked up another, and then resumed the song. Meanwhile, drummer Georgia Hubley kept a supple, swinging beat while James McNew played his simple, catchy, endlessly circling bass riffs for minutes on end without once falling back on a loop pedal.

The steady, hypnotic storm began with Pass the Hatchet and continued with From a Motel 6. Kaplan reminded what a purist, catchy pop tunesmith he can be with a relatively undisturbed. loping version of All Your Secrets. Then he switched to keys for a Stereolab-ish take of Autumn Sweater. Did McNew switch to guitar on that one? All these years later, it’s impossible to remember all the details.

The quiet part of the show went on for what seemed like more than half an hour, with the wistful Nowhere Near and then Black Flowers, which Hubley sang from behind the keyboard. Almost mercifully, Kaplan brought the energy up slowly with I’ll Be Around, which sounded like the Stones’ Moonlight Mile on crank.

Hubley and McNew harmonized on Before We Run, then the trio buzzed and burned through Sugarcube, the closest thing to Sonic Youth in the set. After that, they took their time raising Ohm from a drony nocturne into a feral feedback fest. They closed with I Heard You Looking, Kaplan’s sparks and sputters and firestorm of raw noise going on for more than twenty minutes, the two guitarists from the awful opening act invited up but obviously in awe and not adding much to the jam.

The game plan for this blog that night was to get a field recording and use that as a reference. Sadly, the recorder, which was literally being held together with rubberbands, picked that evening to flatline. And after standing through an interminable opening set and then Yo La Tengo, this blog’s owner assumed the show was over and left.

Other blogs mention an encore and a jokey appearance on the mic by Kaplan’s mom. Don’t discount those kind of shenanigans, if the PA is really loud on the first.

An Epic, Free Jamband Festival This Weekend in South Dakota

From the perspective of being immersed in live music in New York long before this blog was born, it’s humbling and inspiring to see how many incredible shows there are outside this city, in what has become the free world. For anyone with the time and some reasonable proximity to the southwest corner of South Dakota, there’s nothing more fun happening this coming weekend than this year’s Deadwood Jam at Outlaw Square, at the corner of Deadwood and Main in Deadwood, South Dakota.

People travel hundreds of miles and spend hundreds of dollars for a jamband lineup like this one, which is free. The show this Friday night, Sept 17 starts at 4:30 PM; the Saturday show begins at one in the afternoon. Tuff Roots, an excellent reggae band who use everything in their vast psychedelic arsenal – innumerable guitar textures, melodic bass and horns, and a deep dub sensibility – open the Friday night show. Next up are the Kitchen Dwellers, a Montana crew who are a more jamgrass-oriented version of Widespread Panic. The headliner is a Rusted Root spinoff.

The Saturday lineup is more diverse. The 1 PM act is Neon Horizon, a jangly, catchy stadium rock band, followed by Musketeer Gripweed, the retro 70s hippie rock act responsible for the classic drinking anthem A Train. The group who might be the very best one on the bill are mammoth Colorado soul band The Burroughs, who are fronted by their drummer, Mary Claxton. After that, there’s Grateful Dead cover band Shred is Dead. War – whatever’s left of the legendary Bay Area latin soul hitmakers from the 70s – are headlining.

A few years before blogs existed, the future owner of a daily New York music blog went to see War on a hazy summer afternoon in Fort Greene Park. Looking back, it’s not likely that there were many if any remaining original members in the band, but, surprisingly, the set was as unexpectedly fresh as it was low-key, considering the relatively early midweek hour, and the heat. Elevating a bunch of old hits you’ve played thousands of times to any level of inspiration is not an easy job, especially if you’re stuck with a daytime municipal gig where you probably just got out of the van and need to get back in right afterward and head off to the next city.

There was plenty of obvious stuff in the set, included a radio single-length version of Lowrider – a big hit with the crowd, considering how many hip-hop acts of the 90s sampled it – and a pretty interminable take of Spill the Wine, the goofy novelty song that Eric Burdon sang with them. But the less obvious material was prime: slinky and even biting versions of The World Is a Ghetto, and Slipping Into Darkness, and a spirited take of the wry 1975 anti-racist hit Why Can’t We Be Friends. The horns and rhythm section were laid back and unobtrusive: nobody was trying to make crazed improvisational jazz or heavy metal out of the songs. This wasn’t a bucket-list show but it was a fun way to play hooky from a job where everybody was going to be fired from a company that would be sold at the end of the year to downsizers. That’s a story for another time. No doubt thousands of people will have their own fun stories of what’s happening this weekend in Deadwood.

Incendiary Ethiopian Jams on the Upper West Side This Weekend

Anbessa Orchestra‘s latest single Gobez (Brave) – streaming at Bandcamp – is a condensed, slashing version of a big anthem they slayed with for over a year before the lockdown. Then the Israeli-American Ethiopian jazz jamband had to record it remotely over the web since the band members had been scattered across the world. Here, guitarist/bandleader Nadav Peled introduces the big, defiant, ominous Ethiopian modal hook, picked up by the brass and eventually a slithery solo by baritone saxophonist Eden Bareket.

This wild, incendiary outfit are back in action with a free outdoor show on Aug 1 at 7 PM at Pier One on the Hudson; take the 1/2/3 to 72nd St., walk west and take the stairs down to the river at 68th St. out behind the Trump complex. There’s plenty of room for dancing on the pier.

Their most recent album, Live at New City Brewery 11/22/19 hit their Bandcamp page about a year ago and underscores why more bands should make live albums. For a soundboard recording that the band probably never planned on releasing until the lockdown, this is pretty amazing. They are in their element through a relentlessly slinky thirteen-song set in western Massachusetts, a mix of originals and classics. Bassist Ran Livneh and drummer Eran Fink run hypnotically undulating, circular riffs as the band shift from an ominous mode to sunnier terrain on the wings of alto sax player Bill Todd’s jubilantly melismatic alto sax solo on the night’s opening number.

As they like to do, they segue straight into a searing, practically eight-minute version of their signature song Lions, organist Micha Gilad holding down turbulent river of sound behind the biting chromatics of the horns, trumpeter Billy Aukstik out in front. Peled’s supersonic hammer-ons raise the energy to redline through a tantalizingly brief solo: this band can go on twice as long and the intensity never wavers.

Assefa Abate’s Yematibela Wef ((A Bird You Can’t Eat) has a subtext as salacious as the title implies and a bouncy triplet groove. The Gize Suite, a diptych, based on Gizie Biyasayegnem by Misrak Mammo, starts out as a shivery, chromatic, trumpet-fueled clapalong shadowed by Peled’s guitar and rises to blazing, symphonic proportions. Peled brings it down to a spare, ominously jangling solo guitar interlude, then the conflagration starts again.

From there the group hit a balmy oldschool 60s soul bounce with Zemena and Abebe Mellese’s Kelkay Yelelbebet, then an original, Tch’elema (Darkness), a turbulently pulsing salute to resilience in troubled times.

Todd’s spare flute contrasts with the brooding undercurrent of Werik’i (Gold), another original. Mahmoud Ahmed’s Belomi Benna gets a cinematic, relentless drive that goes straight-up ska and then reggae, then the band go back to biting minor modes with their own stomp, Gurage

Once again, they follow a segue, from their Ethiopian reggae tune, Le’b, into Aregahegn Worash’s wickedly catchy Zelel Zelel. “Do you want more?” Peled asks the crowd. “One more set,” a guy in the crowd bellows back. Yo which the guitarist responds with a menacing, spiraling, reverb-drenched solo into, then the band launch into the angst-fueled Yeleleu Hager Lidj (Man Without a Country). They close with the bounding, strutting, Dera, with solos all around. This is as good an idea as any of what the Upper West is going to get this weekend.

Careening Through Space with Psychlona

Psychlona are very heavy and very immersively psychedelic. They like hypnotic riffs, and volume, and organic textures that degenerate naturally into distortion and fuzz. And it’s obvious that this album wasn’t recorded to a click track. If your idea of a good time is getting so stoned that you can’t get off the couch, this is your jam. This music doesn’t move around a lot, either: it just hits you over and over again. The band’s 2016 album Mojo Rising – which has nothing to do with the Doors – is streaming at Bandcamp.

The distantly tolling guitar riff that kicks off the opening track, Stone, doesn’t hint at the all-enveloping crush that develops soon after. The band’s publicist nailed it when he mentioned early Orange Goblin; early Sleep is another good comparison, especially when it hits you that this is basically a one-chord  jam.

From there the group  – guitarists Phil Hey and Dave Wainfor, bassist Martyn Birchall and drummer Scott Frankling – ride a wave of screechy fuzz into Ride, the second track. It’s a funny, brisk boogie in an early Fu Manchu vein, where the guys want to get into the weed and the wine but the girl talking in the right channel isn’t into it. Down in the Valley may be hypnotic, but it’s an evil place – and that halfspeed Psychotic Reaction hook will have you nodding your head despite yourself.

Big River is about as far from Johnny Cash as you can possibly imagine, following Sleep-y fast/slow dynamics with layers of wah wafting through the mix: here and there Birchall’s bass slithers up for air. The band go back to heavy stoner boogie for Your God, an even more immersive one-chord heavy spacerock jam.

Master of Reality wah bass converges with into-the-fan vocals in Juju, as the band go doublespeed and back. Black Dog is not the Zep classic but an original where the foursome careen their way up to another doublespeed wah guitar boogie. They close with Beakfoot – all of a sudden the grit is off the bass, replaced by watery 80s sonics as the guitars go unexpectedly bluesy, over nine minutes worth of a one-chord jam where everybody in the band eventually goes through every one of their stompbox settings to keep things interesting.

Drift Through the Galaxy With Luke Schneider

Pedal steel player Luke Schneider’s ornately multitracked solo album Altar of Harmony – streaming at Bandcamp – draws equally on ambient music, dense Pink Floyd sonics and slowly drifting, cinematic guitar soundscapes in the same vein as Kaia Fischer’s epics, or Noveller in a more reflective moment.

There are eight tracks, each with a Latin or quasi-Latin title, a series of majestically minimalist variations on an A major drone. The live version of Brian Eno’s Apollo album, featuring another stellar pedal steel player, BJ Cole, is the obvious reference point.

Starry pulses and elegantly echoing tones mingle with muted plucks. Schneider gets his strings to hum and hover like a synth or an organ, in addition to the instrument’s signature keening, tremoloing sound. As tectonic sheets of chords oscillate, pan the sonic picture and the frequency of the pulse increases, Eluvium‘s more enveloping themes come to mind. Schneider typically plays a lot faster and more virtuosically than this: his focus on creating a mood and sticking with it is impressive. This is a great wind-down record.

A Stunning Ravi Shankar Rarity Rescued From Obscurity

There’s enough Ravi Shankar online to listen to for a year without a break. Needless to say, pretty much every time he sat down with his sitar, the J.S. Bach of Indian music was spine-tingling to witness. Today’s album is a rarity. Ravi Shankar Live in Hollywood 1971 – streaming at Bandcamp – was recorded at a house concert and only released posthumously. It’s Shankar at his most succinct. In concert, he could and would often go on for hours, but three of the four ragas here are especially brief for him. Poignancy, humor, relentless suspense, spectacular peaks, it’s all here, in slightly smaller but no less psychedelic packages than usual.

He opens with a relatively rare morning raga, Raga Vibhas, slowly and meticulously building a low midrange melody, the sun gradually looming over the horizon as he brightens the textures. Yet immediately, he introduces a persistent chromatic unease. It’s extraordinary how he senses the need to pick up the pace at almost exactly the midway mark, not knowing how this will end! The late introduction of the tabla gives Shankar the chance to drive toward a big crescendo with his clustering phrases. Wryly twinkling riffs draw a chuckle or two, then Shankar focuses in with an incisive attack.

Raga Parameshwari is the centerpiece, the sitarist at the top of his game through another morning raga that goes on for well over fifty minutes. The long, steady, lingering opening alap, Shankar finally descending to rich, suspensefully warpy low tones, also features spare, allusive tabla. The sitar builds intensity with recurrent variations on an allusively chromatic, tantalizingly unresolved rising phrase, then the music warms, rising and falling, sometimes gradually, sometimes suddenly. A momentary, hypnotic, minimalist lull is breathtaking (for everybody, it seems) and signals a first round of rapidfire volleys, supersonic sizzle intermingled within the persistent metallic gleam.

Shankar dedicates the brightly lilting, relatively brief Raga Dunh to the people of Bangladesh, imperiled at the time by a Pakistani invasion. The single, bracingly rising opening riff, plaintive, resonant tones and classic, stairstepping moment in the alap that opens Raga Sindhi Bhairavi only hint at the torrential power Shankar  will generate. Considering its origins, this raga has more Middle Eastern ambience than most of the others in the cycle. And yet, Shankar is just as rambunctiously funny in places as he is slashingly incisive elsewhere. Of all the ragas here, this is the most straightforward and unrelenting, his volleys of tremolo-picking and wild bends rising throughout a long, stunning coda.