Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sunn O)))

Sunn 0)))
Monoliths and Dimensions
Purchase album here

When it comes to Sunn 0))), we usually know what we are getting even before the first notes of the albums transpire. These kings of black-cloaked drone play heavy music and do so in two fashions, very slow and extremely loud. On nearly every recording, Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley unleash a sub-sonic attack on the eardrums with notes so low that we, as mere mortals, never knew they existed, that is until the fillings in our back molars rattle loose and our heads throb from the reverberation. Though not every one's cup of tea, Sunn 0))) has developed a very strong following that spans across the spectrum from lovers of heavy rock and metal, to noise, to experimental jazz nerds.
With their new album and seventh release, Monoliths and Dimensions, Anderson and O'Malley expand the Sunn 0))) sound and add more dimensions to the overall picture with the addition of strings, brass, and vocal arrangements. Not that they are changing much about their sound or getting soft on us however, because this is most definitely a Sunn 0))) album in all its glory, complete with a massive sound and dark overtones. Opening the album up in great form, "Agartha" features the classic Anderson and O'Malley calling card: down-tuned chords that seem to last for an eternity and are best consumed at an extremely high volume setting. This foreboding tale of the legendary city that lies at the Earth's core, features Hungarian vocalist Attila Csihar with a primal monologue that seems to be evoking some sort of prophecy from the old world that will open a direct vortex to this Land of the Living Gods. Csihar, who has worked with such black metal greats as Tormentor and Mayhem, brings forth a guttural and damn right creepy vocal performance throughout the entire album that makes Vincent Price seem like a Sunday school teacher and is highly appropriate for the dark imagery being painted by both Anderson and O'Malley. "Big Church" could easily be a long lost gem straight out of the Omen or 2001: A Space Odessy soundtrack repertoire, and features Earth's Dylan Carlson on guitar, a Viennese women's choir, and composer Eyvid Kang with brass and string arrangements, all of which add their own crucial layer to the mix. Despite several guests on this album, Kang seems to have the biggest contribution, with his string and brass work that sets Monoliths and Dimensions apart from the rest of the Sunn 0))) catalog.
This album is both brutal and beautiful; heavy as hell and scary as shit. It is the perfect accompaniment for a stormy night, a dark drive in the country, and a night alone with only candles burning. A word to the wise, however: when listening to Monoliths and Dimensions, don't let your mind play tricks on you, for it is only an album and the sounds you are hearing emit only from your speakers. Or do they? -Andrew Bryant

Monday, June 8, 2009

Scott H Biram

Scott H. Biram
Something's Wrong/Lost Forever
purchase here

The Reverend Scott H. Biram can do no wrong in my book. Like any good parishioner, I will follow the good Reverend's lead in all things, from consuming my communion of whiskey and biscuits, not taking shit off of anyone who comes my way, and knowing that the good Lord, Jesus loves me just the way that I am. Like most who take Biram's word as the gospel, any and everything that he has released musically stands the test of time and constantly remains at an arm-length, ready to be consumed when and wherever the spirit moves me. Something's Wrong/Lost Forever, the newest testament in the gospel of Scott H. Biram, is just what the doctor ordered, the best of both worlds, conjuring the bombastic boot-stomp and the drunken heartbreak in all of us.
At face value, what is most impressive for a mere passerby is that, like everything he does, Scott pretty much handles it all on this album, from writing, to singing, engineering, producing, stomping, and hollering. This indeed makes the album all his own, the exact portrait that he wishes to convey in the exact way he wants, whether it be slapping us in the face or lending a friendly ear and warm glass of bourbon. Something's Wrong/Lost Forever is a much more laid back Scott Biram than what we have seen in the recent past, almost returning to the days of Preachin' and Hollerin'. Not that he has gone soft on us, no sir. It's just that there seems to be much more of an emphasis placed on the craft of songwriting, along with his overall grit and raw emotion. These songs include the laid back "Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue" and "Wildside" on which Biram seems to be channeling more of a Hank Williams feel than ever with more twang and drawl than you can shake a stick at. These tracks are plumb pretty at times, sad at others, and make you want to drown your sorrows at the bottom of the bottle. Once the sacrament has been consumed, there are plenty of rowdy moments on the album to get the blood flowing a bit faster, including "Judgement Day" where Biram preaches the gospel in his own twisted way and "I Feel Good" on which Van Campbell and John Wesley Myers of the Black Diamond Heavies add their own flair and burn the whole damn barn down in the process. Ending the album in the absolute perfect manner, Scott H. Biram shows his true blues and gospel roots and raises the spirits by giving an a capella rendition of Leadbelly's "Go Down Ol' Hannah", showing more soul than most R&B singers combined.
All in all, another great album by the man, the myth, the legend that is known as Scott H. Biram. His music brings together blues, rock, gospel, all in a punkass manner that appeals to an extremely broad variety of individuals, that are ever growing in number and variety even as we speak. I see this new album as propelling him into the league in which he belongs, especially in the circles that hold Hank Williams III in such a high regard. And make no mistake about it, Scott H. Biram is most definitely an outlaw whose music goes far above and beyond reflecting just that. - Andrew Bryant

Monday, June 1, 2009

Trainwreck Riders

Trainwreck Riders
The Perch
purchase here

From the get-go, I thought that I had the Trainwreck Riders pegged. With the descriptors of country and rock, I was sure that they were going to be a more modern version of a Parsons Burrito Byrds conglomerate, yet I couldn't have been more wrong. Hearing their music for the first time threw me an instant curve ball, probably because I was expecting to hear upbeat shuffles with quirky pedal steel lines and instead was dished out a serving that was a bit more rock than roll. Hailing from San Francisco, the Trainwreck Riders consist of vocalist and guitarist Pete Frauenfelder, Andrew Kerwin on drums, and his brother Steve on lead guitar and vocals.
For the most part, this album is a modern cowpunk record that brings to mind obvious influences from this genre including the Meat Puppets and the Mekons. Part rock, but never over the top, the Trainwreck Riders are a pretty safe, middle-of-the-road bet that never gets too out of control on the volume and tempo end of things. Not a face-melter at all mind you, The Perch, though chocked full of momentary lapses with Dobro, lap steel, and fiddle, can best be described as an alternative country rock album with a sound that is highly similar to that of Built to Spill and Modest Mouse. Highlights include"Don't You Know", a track with an extremely laid back tempo that could seamlessly be added to any Modest Mouse record and "Chug Along", a soft, acoustic song complete with resonator guitar, brushes on the snare drum, and a warm, summer evening feel that makes you just want to put your feet up on the back porch and watch the sun go down.
Though not what I expected at first, the Trainwreck Riders have delivered an album that is perfect for the warm weather that is upon us. The Perch is yet another point chalked up in the plus column for Alive Records and I am sure that we will more from the Trainwreck boys hopefully soon.-Andrew Bryant