Agusa – Agusa 2 (Två) (Review)

AgusaAgusa are from Sweden and play Psychedelic/Progressive Rock. This is their second album.

The majority of the things you need to know about this album can be summed up in the follwing three words – 70s Progressive Rock. It’s definitely of the era and the inclusion of organ and flute only reinforce the idea.

There are only two tracks on this release but with the first one being 20 minutes in length and the second 18 minutes, there’s a full album’s worth of content here.

Apart from some low-key and ethereal backing vocals, this is almost entirely instrumental; the main focus is on the music itself. The intricate complexity and warm exploratory nature of the songs mean that these two tracks have a lot to offer in a non-threatening way. If you like the 70s style then it’s undoubtedly an impressive display of it.

Agusa 2 is richly textured and has a seemingly loose structure that’s probably actually quite tightly controlled. It twists, turns and winds its way through the playing time in a calm and informal manner.

This offers some real drugged-out psychedelic bliss for connoisseurs of the style. It’s a reflective response to a time that may have passed but is being kept alive by people who share a passion for an era that musically gave so much to what came after.

Although Agusa won’t be a band that appeals to everyone, they do what they do extremely well and if you want to kick back and relax to music that’s both mellow and challenging then this is the album for you.

Ecstatic Vision – Sonic Praise (Review)

Ecstatic VisionEcstatic Vision are from the US and play Psychedelic Rock. This is their début album.

Ecstatic Vision play music that combines elements of Stoner Rock with 70s Psychedelia and Progressive influences.

The music has the drugged-out aura of an older time, where music seemed purer and bands experimented in more than one way.

This is a guitar-oriented release with lots of riffs, solos and leads. In addition to this we get dreamy organ, throbbing bass and understated-yet-crucial drums.

A decent enough description would be somewhere between Hawkwind and Acid Mothers Temple. The songs easily take on a life of their own during their exploratory ramblings. It remains cohesive though and although you wouldn’t necessarily be in the mood to listen to this type of thing every day, when you are it really, really hits the spot.

Listen and absorb; open the doors of perception and visit other layers of consciousness.

Sativa – 100 Years After Never (Review)

SativaSativa are from Bulgaria and this is their latest release. They play instrumental Post-Rock.

This is winding Post-Rock with a nice Progressive Rock edge to their sound. There’s also some Psychedelia and Stoner elements to their sound that essentially mean 100 Years After Never is a very relaxing, easy listen that washes over you like a rippling tide.

That’s not to say it’s all calm sailing as the band ramp it up a bit when they need to, but there’s no real heavy aggression here or anything of that sort.

Ethereal Post-Rock guitar blends with down-to-earth bass to create a listening experience that’s tranquil and charged at the same time. Sativa do well in this combination of beauty and gritty realism and the songs on this EP are nicely judged.

With the Stoner connection it’s the usual thing to make lots of comparisons to deserts, etc. but the reality is that Sativa have got somewhat of a watery vibe going on in some ways. This is especially strong on track 3, which gives the distinct impression of bubbles…

Maybe it’s just me, but I can hear it, I swear…

Overall this is a neat little EP that hits more times than it misses.


Lae – Break the Clasp (Review)

LaeLae are from Canada and this is their début album. They play Post-Rock.

Okay, so I say Post-Rock, but not only is that incredibly vague but it also doesn’t really do the band justice, as Lae don’t really sound like you’d probably envisage when you think of Post-Rock. They have an unusual style that’s as enticing as it is seductive.

So, first off I should mention that the band have a very sexy production courtesy of Today is the Day frontman Steve Austin. Apparently he, understandably, became so enamoured with the band’s songs that he ended up providing lead vocals for the entire album. That album is Break the Clasp and the first thing you should know then is that his vocals are stunning.

Haunting cleans are layered together and occasionally enhanced by Austin’s trademark acidic screams to create a performance that’s like a demented lullaby. Breaking the Clasp gives Austin a true platform to demonstrate just how good a singer he actually is.

The music itself is a multi-textured and highly emotive smorgasbord of tasty treats and delights. It’s a hazy, psychedelic mix of Rock and Post-Rock that’s strictly non-conventional and features enough hypnotic melodies to capture your attention forever.

There’s a great variety of mood and feeling to be found here. Doubtless this is not the kind of album to appeal to everyone; it’s not an “instant hit” by any means. It doesn’t suffer from this though, as the songs here have a longevity to be expected of a band who have seemingly taken the best part of over a decade to release their début.

The songs strike a personal note with the listener, drilling down to the core of what’s important in great music; connection, passion and feeling.

Providing band references as comparisons is not easy. Hmm, certain aspects, (but not all by any means – the slower parts mainly), of bands like Today is the Day, Earth, Swans, Fantômas, Angels of Light, etc. are suitable starting points.

Break the Clasp is something of a revelation for me. Albums of this beauty and intrigue don’t come along very often. I’m floored. I love this.

As I write these words it’s nearing the end of 2014, and a lot of amazing album have been released this year. All I know is that Lae will be featuring very highly on my Best of 2014 list.

Achingly necessary.

The Order of the Solar Temple – The Order of the Solar Temple (Review)

The order of the Solar TempleThe Order of the Solar Temple are from Canada and play Heavy Metal/Rock.

This is Old-School with elements of Classic Rock, Doom Metal and Psychedelic Rock.

The band have a very warm, laid back sound that instantly makes you feel at ease like a welcome old friend.

The singer has an excellent voice; he’s soft and exquisite, or ultra-high and maniacal, or deep and melodramatic…He has character and personality that’s for sure and puts in a stellar performance.

Coming across as a mix of Blue Öyster Cult, (who they also cover), Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Merciful Fate, this is an enjoyable way to spend 45 minutes when you’re in that retro mood.

There really is some great material here! The singer has a forceful presence and some of these riffs are just epic in scope and feeling.

I thoroughly recommend you listen to this and experience the band first-hand. May you be drawn into their world…

Favourite Track: Aeon of Horus. Everything from the vocal delivery to the tense guitars to the understated bass…a stunner of a song.

Black Space Riders – D:REI (Review)

Black Space RidersGermany’s Black Space Riders play a diverse modern brand of Stoner Rock and their new album is a whopping 80 minutes in length, so there is loads of content to get your head around.

Sounding very confident and polished, they still have enough snarl to them to give the tracks a bit of bite when appropriate.

This is a very accomplished album, mixing Rock and Metal together with elements of Stoner Rock, Skyscraper-esque emotional Rock, psychedelia and Progressive tendencies to create a very long and very involved album. With a release of this length it would be easy to include filler and bore the listener, but there is precious little of that on D:REI thankfully.

The album has a perfectly configured sound, with everything both clear and slightly fuzzed-up in true Stoner Rock fashion. In fact I’ll coin the term Sophisticated Stoner Rock to describe Black Space Riders, (You heard it here first); at their core is a Stoner Rock Band, but they’ve taken on a heap of other influences and have evolved into something more than these relatively humble beginnings.

With so much variety, interest and ideas in these songs it’s no surprise really that they needed such a long album to showcase them all. Each track has a different mood; a different feeling all based on an essential Stoner Rock core but with ambitious designs on being even more. Every song has its own character and the longer nature of the tracks gives each one the time to develop naturally and embrace the aspect of Rock that it is portraying.

A very complete album that is long enough to provide a journey and deep enough to provide a meaningful one. Highly recommended and highly enjoyable.