thisquietarmy Hex Mountains Denovali Records (2013)Hex Mountains is a black mass, that rends the veil of consensual reality, plunging the listener into a twilight afterlife of elder gods and ancient wisdom. It's good to have post-rock back. For years, it seemed that all the genre could produce was ham-fisted Mogwai knock-offs that lost the emotional subtlety and expansive listening habits of the original movement. Imitators with long names sucked the marrow right out of post-rock's bones until it was an embarrassment, a shell of its former self. People forgot how thrilling it could be to combine the crushing weight of metal with the sonic possibilities of electronic music, and the weird eeriness of drone. The Denovali Records release of two albums from Montreal drone alchemist Eric Quach, who has released over 50 albums under the name thisquietarmy, suggest that this is about to change, and that it is again okay to appreciate epic instrumental rock 'n roll; people are finding new and interesting things to do with the format. Hex Mountains suggests a new phase in Thisquietarmy's extensive catalog. After touring with heavyweights like Year Of No Light and Deafheaven, Eric Quach wanted to turn up the intensity. He shattered the traditional isolation of TQA's somnolent soundscapes, to enlist members of Alashan, Northumbria and Monarch. It's some of his most pummeling work to date.
AURAL DEVASTATION is a regular column about heavy rock music. This month, Cloudkicker streams his ninth record, Subsume, Jesu returns with a new track, plus songs from Doomriders and the supergroups Mutoid Man (members of Cave In and Converge) and Black God (members of Coliseum and Young Widows).
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Cloudkicker - "Subsume"

Ben Sharp, who creates under the moniker Cloudkicker, has been blasting the instrumental music scene to pieces since he started releasing music back in 2007. Everything is written, recorded, mixed and mastered at his home in Columbus, Ohio, and like the true lover of music Sharp is, all of his releases are streamed for free online. Physical copies exist, and if you love Cloudkicker’s jams enough. you can always pay Sharp for his efforts as well -- and money should definitely be thrown his way for his prog-metal influenced take on instrumental music. His ninth (!!!) release since 2007, Subsume is streaming on his Bandcamp page, with a limited vinyl run scheduled for sometime in the early Fall. Do yourself a favor and hop on this wagon. It is well worth the ride.  

Jesu - "Homesick"

Jesu, the brainchild of metal God Justin Broadrick, is back out with a new album soon, and it seems like it has been quite some time since his last. Every Day I Get Closer to the Light From Which I Came has the appropriate long-ass title befitting of any post-metal album, and as the first track "Homesick" shows, Broadrick has gone with a more guitar-oriented approach this time. Granted, is about as thrilling as watching paint drip off a wall and slowly dry into chips, but don’t let that deter you. Any Jesu release is well worth the effort to soak in, and as fall approaches, the soundtrack for the season has arrived with it.
The sixteeth installment of Experimental Portland's on-going concert series took place at Rotture on a humid Wednesday night, and for $5, featured an amazing lineup consisting of Midday Veil, ALTO!, and Antecessor. I apologize to the internet and myself for having missed what was supposedly an amazing set by Antecessor -- but the remainder of the show was inspiring enough for me to unexpectedly pen a few words!
September 11th, 2013 @ Rotture in Portland, OR

ALTO!

I'd never before heard of ALTO!, but the three-piece band is certainly the impetus for my writing this; I just can't resist documenting a visually mind-stirring music. Encompassing musical tendencies both spontaneous and controlled, ALTO! manage to strike a balance between eardrum-destroying noise and muted hypnotism with ease. Beginning with an extremely minimal intro, hardly perceptible, ALTO! slyly beckoned the most curious of minds towards the stage while others chatted on, unaware the set had begun. It was a meditative hello, a subtle glimpse into the type of hypnotic reveries ALTO! are alluding to, even though such glimpses may ostensibly become lost in their most full-on and guitar-shredding moments. From there, the next track increased in speed and density to form bizarrely danceable music -- though only for those who like strange time signatures and drum-heavy cycles in sound. It was in one particular moment of letting up -- in ALTO's most subtle moment of repetition -- where I found the most fascination, in the form of a single guitar line adorned by the two percussionists on opposite sides of the stage. One had a shaker in hand while the other chimed a bell, both repeating in his particular pattern as though on a timer. Their sounds were satisfying, certainly -- but even more satisfying were the moments preceding each sound, where both drummers moved like wound-up toy soldiers, clinking and clanking with the same repeating series of arm movements or head bobs. Moving into the following track, they left behind their trance-states to join more involved ranks, transforming from mere toys into military drummers flanking a perfectly stage-centered guitarist general. Together, they led showgoers on a journey through the Middle Eastern desert, greeting Barn Owl, Om, and Swans along on the way.
Bumbershoot Festival signifies a lot of things for Seattle, but the main mark of Bumbershoot is that fall is upon us. The annual Labor Day arts festival in downtown Seattle traditionally comes with both good weather and the need for umbrellas, aka a bumbershoot. Bumbershoot’s place in music festivals across the nation includes one big distinction; it name isn’t merely the Bumbershoot Music Festival, but the Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival. The addition of arts is noticeable, for as much music stretches across multiple stages in Seattle Center, there are just as many comedians, writing panels, art exhibits and impromptu busking performances on the festival grounds.

Gary Numan

Bumbershoot has always done a great job of getting some old school acts to show their face, and the crowd make-up is always funny because of it. Those watching Gary Numan were no different. Numan has been churning out music since the late '70s, but the majority of today's youngsters know him for the chart-topping hit "Cars" and its early, slightly rudimentary use of electronica in music. I am also one of those ignorant youngsters, aware of who Numan is and his contributions as one of the pioneers of electronica and gothic rock, but with really no idea what he truly sounded like outside of "Cars". To almost put Numan's performance in a nutshell, I'll direct you to the tweet I sent immediately into his set (ignore my typo please, and for my shameless Twitter plug, follow me here). As dusk set, the lights were blaring for Gary Numan, who even at the age of 55, contorted his body for dramatics at angles I haven't hit since I was four-years-old. Gary Numan was just heavy as shit, and it was awesome. Even "Cars", which he launched into about five songs in, was heavy as shit and all of it was unexpected for my ignorant ears. Gary Numan's performance was watching all the precursors for Trent Reznor laid out right in front of you, and almost seemed like a live-action History Channel viewing. Bumbershoot has always been the best about scheduling these kinds of acts, and it was the perfect way to end the first day of music.
After their Earth Tour of 45 countries in 90 days, you might think the members of Horse the Band would loathe each other to the point of disbanding. After such a frenetic pace of travel, the close quarters of their interactions, and the meager financial compensation paid to them, what incentive is there to endure? To enact the Kauffman-esque humiliation upon their audience they are known for: that is the incentive. And now here in 2013, absent record label and foregoing a new album since 2009, Horse gladly take on bonus levels for touring outside of the US. It has become increasingly clear: American audiences no longer excite Horse, and our incessant need for retro gaming nostalgia is exactly what drove them to other shores. We could have been a bit more appreciative that they didn't always write lyrics about video games, and from our folly, Europe has capitalized. Along for this particular tour is UK band Rolo Tomassi, past tourmates of Horse who also call themselves admirers of the band. When asked about watching Horse address the audience on tour, keyboardist James Spence sums it up in a very apt description, joking that they are "a mixture of entertaining and terrifying." "Having spent a fair amount of time around them offstage," he continues, "it starts to make way more sense. I appreciate their honesty and that they're unafraid to be themselves at all times." The tour's Berlin date meant a brief homecoming before departing to Russia for Horse's Lord Gold (Erik Engstrom), who now calls Berlin home base. It would also be the end of the road for Rolo Tomassi, whose upcoming tour schedule has them visiting Japan and Australia this fall. Between the matched amount of enthusiasm for animated keyboard playing between both bands and Horse's outlandish hilarity, the show at Berlin's Magnet made evident that Horse's fun on tour is exponentially higher when not playing at home.
August 12th, 2013 @ Magnet in Berlin, Germany PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOSH CONNOLLY (ROLO TOMASSI) AND MATT CARTER (HORSE THE BAND)

 

AURAL DEVASTATION is a regular column about heavy music. This month, Circle Takes the Square awaken from an eight-year slumber and Sweden's gothic masters Ghost return from their spectral hideout, plus tracks from KEN Mode, Kvelertak, and Shai Hulud.
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Circle Takes the Square - Decompositions

 

 

Eight years ago, the Savannah, Georgia screamo/thrash/post-hardcore outfit Circle Takes the Square dropped As the Roots Undo on this mortal world , andpopulations of head-banging enthusiasts went nuts accordingly. The dual shrieks of vocalists Drew Speziale and Kathy Coppola over guitars centered in thrash and drums focused on grind elements were enough to make CTTS the new saviours of hardcore, bringing new relevance to the ill-titled 'screamo' genre and really just delivering a critically flawless ass-kicking to the ear drums of anyone who wanted to take part. And then it turned out that Circle Takes the Square were merely human beings, since it'd been close to eight years since the band put out any new material. They sure as hell toured in-between, but their "reported" second full-length was starting to sound more and more like Chinese Screamocracy, an oft-mentioned holy lore of music more suitable as a reference in the newest Indiana Jones film than in reality. But weary no more, treasure seekers -- because Circle Takes the Square is finally back. They started a very successful Kickstarter campaign, and the final product, Decompositions, has finally seen the light. The entire album is up on the band's Bandcamp page at a name-your-own-price steal, and the vinyl is expected to be pressed and available in early 2013. Lets hope that doesn't turn into early 2021...

 

In our 2012 Album Covers of the Year feature, we once again get our hands on everyone we can. Through interviews with designers, musicians, labels, and plenty of others, we take a close look at just how many hands are in the pot when it comes to the album artwork process. Inside this feature are 98 album covers spanning a wide array of sonic and visual styles, each selected for its own unique contribution to the world. They are not ranked; instead, they are broken down into sections based on conceptual underpinnings or artistic mediums, and then are displayed on spectrums. Get started by navigating into any of these six sections: Geometric & Pattern-Based Classically-Influenced Narrative & Symbolic Photography & Manipulations Painting & Illustration Collage, Sculpture & Mixed Media You can also see last year's at 2011 Year-End Respect For Album Cover Art
 
Well, it's now past the supposedly prophesized Mayan apocalypse, and of course no obvious signs of eschatological judgment have been wrought down upon us, which was much to be expected. There is something else we need to address though, before we can just write this shit off for good. If you were paying any attention to what those of the neo-spiritualist ilk were saying for the last decade or so, the conversation always involved a shift in consciousness rather than a rogue asteroid raining fiery death from above. Nobody said it'd be instantaneous.
 
Prophecies regarding a sudden massive shift in the perceptual limitations of our species always struck me as being beyond improbable. Whereas I'd be the first to admit that more of us these days are getting turned on to the higher cosmic functionalities of our brains, I'd also point out that it's probably little more than a numbers game. There are more people, period. I'd wager that for every turned on occult-dabbling tripster, there are two new closed-minded evangelical sex repression nutsos. Occultist super freaks just don't proselytize, and they probably blew their money on drugs and albums rather than bribing politicians, so there's that. Our society still revolves around boring after all and will for some time to come. What the fuck are you going to do? But it's not like all hope for a revolution is lost, the times -- they are a-changin', after all. Terence McKenna foretold a spike in novelty leading up to 2012, and it's not like novelty hasn't been spiking. The great singularity might have to wait, but technology has opened up consciousness to a new array of bizarre potentialities, the implications of which we can only barely conceive of at this point. At the heart of all shamanistic extra-dimensional informational summoning rituals lies the evolution of language from spoken word to projected internal telepathic metaphor, the language of our dreams. Meaningful scenarios projected from mind-to-mind, manifesting as direct experience. It's where we're headed with all these interconnected smart phones, tablets, and such. A picture is worth thousand words and now we can send each other videos instantaneously with our shiny new synthetic telepathy. Videogames continue to increase in complexity replicating alternate reality scenarios in our heads ad infinitum. Think of how rapidly our lives have changed in comparison to our parents' and even our grandparents' generations. Your everyday world can now be filled with an increasing array of deliciously magickal shenanigans. Marijuana has now been legalized in two states, one of which just so happens to be my home state for the last 11 years: Washington. This is the biggest victory in the war of consciousness I've seen in my lifetime, and something I never saw coming as a cynical 18-year-old stoner. What no one's saying about this matter is that one of the fundamental tenets of Western occultism involves a focused practice of weed-based sex magick, which is now totally legal. People are going to figure it out eventually. Combine that with a wide array of art-summoning gadgets, and you're well on your way to re-programming yourself into the next age psychic stratosphere. In the next fifty years or so I'm sure we'll debate whether or not 2012 was the beginning of a widespread shift toward a higher order of knowing. Again, these things take time. People have been fighting for pot and gay rights forever, and the defenses have finally started to crack. LSD in next. More importantly, the fact that we're finally starting to recognize the environmental nightmare brought forth by our materialistic insanity is more than a good omen. I know what's been shown to me. We've dug ourselves a hole that we can only fly out of through a psychedelic mindgasm portal. It's where we're headed. The environment's going to force our hand on this one. The UFOs aren't going to just stop lighting up the skies, the storms aren't going to stop hitting and then where the fuck are you going to turn? Sorcery, that's where.
Say what you will about 2012, but since consciousness is comprised of linguistic information, the idea of a coming apocalypse in itself propagated some rather delicious undercurrents of sound rippling through the Akashic record this year. I've never written more than a top five list in my life, but when I was thinking back on the insane amount of mind-bending albums that dropped in the last 12 months, I was kind of in shock. Most of this stuff's fairly obvious, at least in my world. Was it people like Terence McKenna and his mechanized Timewave Zero prophesies, inspiring people like Grant Morrison to write the great Invisibles hypersigil, that summoned this record deluge of psychoactive soundscapes into motion? I have no idea. Did the Mayans get in every band's head and subconsciously encourage them to bring their A game in 2012 as it might be their final chance? Whatever happened, it appears a software update embedded itself into our collective psyche and we went berzerk. An aspiring mystic could use any one of these mind-warping albums to put a hex on their internal mind tunnel and help elevate our collective superstructure heavenward. One might now use these recorded sound patterns in conjunction with the aforementioned pot based sex tantra quite legally in a hip music town like Seattle if one were so inclined. I've been told by the gods that it's a very "time safe activity". Reach for the stars true believers, or to quote Seattle's THEESatisfaction: "Let the musicians, be your physicians."