On the Turntable – Helen Money ‘Become Zero’

The cello has no limits when Alison Chesley, also known by her stage name Helen Money, picks up the bow. Her new album Become Zero, out on Thrill Jockey, is an intricate expression of the pain and sadness one experiences after tragic heartbreak. In this particular case, the album was written after the death of her parents. Chesley tackles the mess of emotions associated with death and translates them into an elegant, dense soundscape. The record is incredibly personal, illustrating immense pain, sadness, and anger — all of which amount to Become Zero’s melancholic and dense sound. Drummer Jason Roeder (Sleep, Neurosis), pianist Rachel Grimes (Rachel’s), and collaborator and co-producer Will Thomas (who provides sound effects and samples) accompany her on the album. With their help Chesley vents, and we watch the storm build and dissipate.

The album starts with the song “Every Confidence,” which upon the first lull of the low, heavy cello, announces “I’m about to pour my heart and soul out, and you’re going to listen.” The lush dark tones create an atmospheric, ambient sound that feels more aligned with traditional black metal motifs of noise rock. This continues to build in “Become Zero,” the title track, and only seven minutes into the album, you are feeling Chesley’s anger.  There is a surprising nod to the classical notes of Bach in “Blood and Bone,” featuring a simple duet between piano and cello. This dark and emotional sound is therapeutic to the rest of the album, which teeters between an array complex of emotions. “Machine” is my personal favorite; the creative use of pedals gives the song a steady heartbeat, and the feeling is more light than dark. This peaceful, sedative state does not last long though, as agitation soon sets in again. The album ends strong and heavy, with songs “Leviathon” and “Facing the Sun.” Chesley’s ability to distort her instrument is a testament to her power as a musician, but also to how music can heal one’s sorrows.

Chesley is not a simple composer. In her experiments with her instrument, she modifies, amplifies, and truly twists what the cello is capable of. The blending of classical elements with more modern noise sounds creates a stellar, melancholic sympathy of pain, sadness, and most of all, the acceptance of death as a part of life. She does not shrink to zero, but instead, rises proud from the ashes as the product of what her parents left behind.

Become Zero is available now on Thrill Jockey.

-Tallulah-

On the Turntable – Myrkur ‘Mausoleum’

The best music is often heard at live shows, yet most live recordings leave me yearning for studio versions of the songs. It’s not for lack of effort; it’s nearly impossible to capture the special magic between artist and listener that occurs in the sacred show space. Few live albums have ever mastered this (Nirvana Unplugged, The Allman Brothers Band Live At the Fillmore East). However, Mausoleum, the latest creation of Danish composer MYRKUR, can now sit on the list of greats – certainly not at number one, but definitely a stellar live record.

Mausoleum is a stripped-down version of Amalie Bruun’s (MYRKUR) debut album, M. There’s no scraping guitar or distorted feedback – just Bruun’s ethereal voice accompanied by piano, acoustic guitar, and the mystical Norwegian Girls Choir. The album was recorded in the historic Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum, dimly lit by burning candles for the performance. Surrounded by dramatically morbid murals, Bruun’s soprano voice echoes through the cavernous space and illustrates her musical power. As a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer (yes, she is all of those things) any flack or skepticism she may receive for being a one-woman black metal band dissipates with this album. The eerie, yet wonderfully dense collection of nine songs teeters between spiritual and sadistic. The melodies sound like rituals that have been performed for hundreds of years, and Bruun is the captivating, mystical folk legend leading it all.

The word ‘myrkur’ simply means darkness in Icelandic, however, Bruun’s music is far from one-dimensional. Her voice packs a mean punch; it’s delicate yet strong, and always hauntingly beautiful. Her influences stem from nature, Scandinavian folklore, and Norse mythology. Bruun states “I always dreamed about becoming a Huldra, an Elver girl, a Valkyrie, the goddess Freja. These powerful women in Norse Mythology have an element of beauty and mystique, but they are also deadly.” We must commend Bruun for achieving this transformation in Masoleum. While putting her spin on the genre, she is clearly very knowledgeable about the history of black metal. Norway has a strong black metal community, so Oslo was the perfect geographic choice for recording (the ancient tomb was also a nice touch). That said, recording in a mausoleum is simply a choice of setting – doing it well is what makes Bruun’s voice one to be heard. In the male-dominated world of music, it becomes all too easy for a pretty face to be associated with a marketing play. Bruun’s unique perspective and ability to bring her cryptic vision to life (yet again!) will continue to redefine and shape black metal music, as well as, most importantly, inspire more female artists to step forward.

Mausoleum was released on August 18th, 2016 by Relapse Records.

-Tallulah-

Boris ‘Pink’ Tour

It has been ten years since the American release of the iconic album Pink by Boris.  It was originally released on Southern Lord Records after its initial introduction in Japan.  In celebration of the tenth anniversary Boris has released a special edition through Sargent House, including a slew of unreleased tracks.

The Japanese trio embarked on a U.S. tour in support of their recent release joined by none other than Washington’s favorite drone metalists, Earth.  We had the good fortune of catching these two at Warsaw on your standard hot and sweaty New York summer night.

Earth kicked the night off, with Dylan Carlson quietly strolling on stage joined by Adrienne Davies on drums and Brett Netson on guitar.  Netson is new to the Earth family and has previously been seen in Built to Spill.  The two-guitar setup gave the night’s set a bit more of a folk tone then their famous drone sounds, but it was a nice change of pace.

The crowd hung on Carlson’s solemn yet heavy guitar riffs as Netson gave a complementary overlay on his side of the stage.  Davies, who is one of my favorite drummers to see live, swayed and lunged with the rhythm as if her whole body was an extension of her drumsticks.  It seemed like the members of Earth were slowly getting the crowd primed before they unleashed a throwback, “High Command,” to knock everyone off their feet.

The crowd had a little break to shake off the heady drone vibes before Boris took the stage.  Atsuo, Takeshi, and Wata emerged from the fog and it felt like all hell broke loose.  Contrary to what many might have expected, Boris took the liberty of rearranging the tracks from Pink, starting with “Blackout.”  An energized Atsuo called out to the crowd from behind his kit before he stood up and pointed a lone drumstick into the frenzied, moshing mass.

As expected of Boris, their set was loud, capable of inspiring sleeping tectonic plates to wake up, making me curse myself for forgetting my earplugs and wondering how many days my ears would be ringing.  The set was definitely a little more drone heavy at the beginning, but then they switched gears and brought out the punk vibes with “Electric” a little bit later in the set.

At this point the pit was in full swing, my shirt was ripped off by a grabby crowd surfer, and everyone was a sweaty mess except for Wata, whose ability to look stunning from start to finish without a single bead of glistening sweat was a wonder in and of itself.  Suffice to say their show was a blast, and further proof that this band will never get boring.  Top it all off with a gong pounding, stage diving Atsuo and you have one hell of a well-rounded set.  Just don’t forget your earplugs if you catch them.

-Skc Photo-

Earth

 

Boris

On the Turntable – Russian Circles ‘Guidance’

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Five albums deep, Russian Circles is no stranger to post-rock masterpieces that combine tranquil, orchestral arrangements with loud, thrashing beats. The trio released their sixth album, Guidance, on August 5th through Sargent House. The seven-song collection is an interwoven work composed by guitarist Mike Sullivan, bassist Brian Cook, and drummer Dave Turncrantz. While their 2013 album, Memorial, added more elements of keyboards and guest vocals from Chelsea Wolfe, Guidance keeps things grounded with the album as a whole sounding effortless and seamless.

The album begins with Sullivan’s soothing guitar, creating waves of peaceful melody. Simply put in one word, the opening track “Asa” is beautiful. Turncrantz comes in pronounced, crescendoing in on the toms and firmly setting up the album’s quiet-to-loud dynamic. Enter the screeching guitar solos, duets between the drums and orchestral arrangements, all sounding appropriately lush and epic.

Things really get interesting about halfway through “Afrika,” when the tone changes and the drums settle into a nice groove. The prettiness dwindles, and the album suddenly feels dark and eerie (picture Bruce Banner transforming into the Hulk). At this turning point, the sound seems too big for the space, thanks to the producer Kurt Ballou (Kvelertak). This pattern continues in “Vorel,” as Turncrantz’s groovy drumbeats pulse through Sullivan and Cook’s more traditional metal guitar and bass riffs. If you’re not headbanging here, you need better headphones.

The album’s structure does become a tad predictable since each song lingers around the six or seven-minute mark, coming in slow and pretty, followed by loud and chaotic. The rolling drums continue to give the scraping guitars a sense of depth, but it’s almost too repetitive. Nonetheless, the group’s musical abilities break the mold with their final track, “Lisboa.” Swampier than the previous mellow sections of the album, this song perfectly wraps everything up with a neat little bow. Overall, Russian Circles constructed a work in which the slow parts resonate with the same intensity as the fast ones, all with the gentle care and delicacy one needs to catch fireflies.

Guidance available on CD and Vinyl through Sargent House.

Russian Circles hit the road this coming fall with support from Cloakroom and Helms Alee.

W/ CLOAKROOM
Aug 26 Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon
Aug 27 Minneapolis, MN – Cedar Cultural Center
Aug 29 Missoula, MT – Palace Lounge
Aug 30 Seattle, WA – Neumos
Aug 31 Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge – SOLD OUT
Sep 2 San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall
Sep 3 Los Angeles, CA – The Teragram Ballroom
Sep 5 Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom
Sep 6 Albuquerque, NM – Launchpad
Sep 7 Englewood, CO – The Gothic Theatre
Sep 8 Kansas City, MO – The Riot Room
Sep 9 Chicago, IL – Metro

W/ HELMS ALEE
Sep 23-24 Cincinnati, OH @ Midpoint Music Fest
Sep 25 Detroit, MI – El Club
Sep 26 Toronto, ON – Lee’s Palace
Sep 28 Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair
Sep 29 Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer
Sep 30 Brooklyn, NY – Warsaw
Oct 1 Washington, DC – Rock & Roll Hotel
Oct 2 Durham, NC – Motorco Music Hall
Oct 4 Atlanta, GA – Aisle 5
Oct 5 Birmingham, AL – Saturn
Oct 6 Baton Rouge, LA – Spanish Moon
Oct 7 Houston, TX – Warehouse Live Studio
Oct 8 Austin, TX – Barracuda
Oct 9 Dallas, TX – RBC

-Tallulah-

On the Turntable – ‘The Lurking Fear’ by H.P. Lovecraft

‘There was thunder in the air on the night I went to the deserted mansion atop Tempest Mountain to find the lurking fear.’

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For the first time ever, H.P. Lovecraft’s master work of terror and suspense, The Lurking Fear, is being released on vinyl by Cadabra Records. The story was first published in November 1922 in Home Brew Magazine, and is certainly one of Lovecraft’s most horrific and disturbing works. Lovecraft’s main character, an unnamed reporter, finds himself on Tempest Mountain to discover what force has attacked a hillside of local squatters. What follows is a series of frightful wonder, so unimaginable that only Lovecraft himself could write them so vividly.

Actor Andrew Leman, a co-founder of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, reads the lurid story with a dynamic and powerful voice. His timing couldn’t be more impeccable, as he ebbs and flows with the climactic moments in the story. With an old-timey charm, parallel to the mid-century tone of Lovecraft’s piece, Leman builds the anticipation of Lovecraft’s dark words, keeping the listeners tied to the story’s journey of fear and discovery.

The masterful mixing of Leman’s voice with the underlying score, arranged by Theologian, acts a steady current throughout the macabre story. Lovecraft’s scenes of dark mountains, emptied towns, and overall dismal despair is only enhanced by the power couple of Leman and Theologian. On vinyl, one can only imagine how much better they would sound accompanied by the crackling pops of a record player (or perhaps on a stormy, thunderous night). Lovecraft’s work was already a masterpiece of horror fiction, however, this reading is not to go unheard. All that’s left to do is to make a listening party out of this record and prepare for one hell of a scary night.

‘The Lurking Fear’ available on Cadabra Records on metallic gold and caramel swirl vinyl.

– Tallulah-

Tip-on Gatefold INSIDE - left pocket glued shut

Tip-on Gatefold OUTSIDE - left pocket glued shut

Helen Money Premiere Track “Become Zero”

This fall Alison Chesley, the powerful singularity known as Helen Money, will be releasing her latest album Become Zero on Thrill Jockey Records.  This album was written after the passing of her parents and is wrought with palpable emotion.  Chesley is joined once again by Jason Roeder of Sleep and Neurosis to deliver an album that is deeply personal.  The album will come out September 16th and Chesley will spend much of her fall touring with Shellac, Sleep, and Russian Circles.

We are very excited to reveal her premiere track “Become Zero” which wastes no time bringing you into the throws of an emotional tidal wave.  Chesley’s cello cuts straight through, pulling you under and tossing you around while Roeder’s drums beat incessantly in the back.  A subtle reminder that at some point you will be able to come up for air.  If this track is a hint for what is to come, we are more than ready to hear the rest.

You can pre-order your copy of Become Zero on CD and LP (on luscious gold) through Thrill Jockey now.

 

 

On the Turntable – Sumac ‘What One Becomes’

SUMAC by Faith Coloccia-2

Sumac, Aaron Turner’s newly formed trio, has once again emerged on the doom metal scene with a second album; the jolting, sloshy epic that is What One Becomes. The album as a whole illustrates a contained chaos, as if Turner has thrown you into the depths of a harsh reality that you just have to deal with. The sludgy heaviness conflicts with the melodic guitar riffs, creating a never-ending confined space. Turner, formerly of Isis and Old Man Gloom, is once again joined by Brian Cook (Russian Circles, TAAS) and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists), bringing in these noise elements to create an expansive space that shift away from the mechanical stomp-beats of his previous collaborations.

The leadoff song, “Image Of Control,” filled with scraping guitar riffs and heavy vocals, catalyzes the album’s pattern of jarring epics followed by impactful moments of peace.  The pockets of rhythmic drumbeats and steady bass within the following tracks, ‘Rigid Man’ and “Clutch Of Oblivion,” tease pleasantries that soon erupt into the same mayhem. Sumac has displayed the simple nature of the calm before the storm, just not in that order. The balance of anxiety and hope is eschewed by the ever-present darkness that looms both beneath the surface, and right in your face. 

While the album’s structure is interesting enough to distract from each song’s 10-minute mark, Turner’s vocals leave one wishing that he deviated more from traditional black metal singing style. For example in “Rigid Man,” Turner’s voice shifts from vivid darkness and longing, to splotchy and uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s Turner’s attempt to mimic the album’s fluctuating structure, however, it comes off more distracting than supportive of the overall theme of repression. Despite this, the work is strong as a whole. The album’s recording location, a former Catholic church in Anacortes, Washington, is perfection. The sound captured in the massive, repurposed space, now donned The Unknown, enhances the ambient, dense sound of the album. Sumac may lurch us around and throw us into the mosh pits, but they remain by our side with each step. What One Becomes effortlessly captures the juxtaposed feelings of anxiety and the things we tell ourselves to get through the day. 

What One Becomes was released on June 10th, 2016 by Thrill Jockey.

Rolling Image by Claudia X Valdes.

Article Image by Faith Coloccia

-Tallulah-