Archive for February 26, 2015

Colour Haze – “To The Highest Gods We Know” (Elektrohasch Records 2015, CD/LP)

Colour Haze are a long lived German guitar/bass/drums trio headed up by guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, who also runs the excellent Elektrohasch Records label. Koglek’s guitar is THE sound of Colour Haze. It has a distinctive feel that is hard rocking grungy stoned and bubbly Psychedelic, yet is always beautifully and lyrically melodic. Koglek also sings, but when Colour Haze are jamming it’s the guitar that is typically making the SONG.

The album opens with Circles, which is trademark jamming and grooving Psych rocking Colour Haze. Paradise is a short tune with a chunky funky and cool dirty Grunge-Psych rocking groove. Nice soulful vocals too. Uberall opens with a couple minutes of lightly jamming guitar, and then the rhythm section kicks in to lay down a steadily rocking groove as the guitar gets increasingly aggressive, but still expressively tuneful. I like the trippy jamming guitar over a grungy drone on Call, which includes a barely perceptible Hammond organ wailing lightly underneath.

And then the band go off into left field on the nearly 12 minute title track. It opens with Spanish styled acoustic guitar and a high pitched, noisy squall, which must be the strings I see in the credits. As the guitar speeds up the strings become less noisy and more like a dissonant, orchestral drone. Near the 4 minute mark the theme shifts to an intense combination of chamber ensemble and Middle Eastern vibe, which in some ways recalls the spirit of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. Colour Haze are traveling in much more experimental directions here, like some kind of high intensity Psychedelic chamber rock ensemble. Finally, the uncredited Last Call is a brief, dreamy vocals and organ coda that brings the album to a close.

The title track really took me by surprise. It’s quite different and after spinning it several times I think the band took the music in very interesting directions. And I was relieved to hear something so different because as much as I enjoyed the other tracks I felt they were far too trademark Colour Haze. In short, I feel like I’ve heard these songs before. The challenge for the band is to retain their identity while widening their horizons and exploring new territory. To The Highest Gods We Know is a good start.

For more information visit the Colour Haze web site at:
Visit the Elektrohasch Records web site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Low Orbit – S/T (self-released 2014, CD/DL)

Low Orbit are the Toronto, Canada based Stoner-Space-Psych trio of Angelo Catanero on guitar and vocals, Joe Grgic on bass and synth, and Emilio Mammone on drums.

Their debut self-titled album opens with Space Capsule, which consists of an eerie pulsating drone-throb and space electronics that serve as an intro to the Stoner Space Rock and Hard-Psych rocking UFOrb. This is like Black Sabbath at Hawkwind’s Space Ritual, with crushing Stoner riffage and spaced out effects. “Take a ride. To Area 51. On the UFOrb”. Dig it. Witchking is a Hard Stoner-Psych tune with a sludgy drudgy vibe that reminds me of Black Sabbath’s Sweet Leaf, and includes cool tripped out guitar licks. International Bass Station is more Metal than Stoner, though it’s a pulverizing assault and still has plenty of Psych guitar. Angel Lust returns to Low Orbit’s more characteristic Stoner-Psych territory and includes a much welcome Space-Ambient vibe. The music can be like early Sabbath at their most brutal, but I like the segments where the hypnotic bass combines riffage and melody as the drums crash and the guitar spits spaced out licks. Potent stuff. Low Orbit continue to up the energy level, spaced out vibe and Psychedelic Rock ‘n’ Roll riffage on Starships & Monoliths and Lost. Treehowl is ominously sludgy with some pretty mean trip guitar and cosmic/demonic lyrics: “I drive my car to the edge of destiny. Planet on the backdrop of my galaxy. Am I a god of a tidal universe. Or just a victim of Satan’s big black curse”. The aptly titled Cosmic Wobble is a monstrous Hard-Psych Stoner-Space instrumental jam. And the ultra stoned The Sloth closes the set.

In summary, if you like Black Sabbath at their most potently stoned, heavily psyched up Stoner Rock, and a healthy dose of Space Rock with your riffage, you’ll dig Low Orbit.

To stream, download and purchase the CD, visit the Low Orbit Bandcamp site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Spurious Transients – “Portraits Of A Landscape” (self-released 2014, CD/DL)

Spurious Transients is headed up by Welsh multi-instrumentalist Gavin Lloyd Wilson who is heavily influenced by German pioneers such as Neu!, Faust, Can, Cluster, Harmonia and Kraftwerk. Wilson plays guitar, bass, synthesizers, samples and field recordings, with help from guests on various tracks. (Wilson also did time standing in on bass for Sendelica during some live performances.)

Regarding the theme of the album I’ll quote from the promo sheet: Portraits Of A Landscape is a collection of musical pieces inspired by the Welsh countryside where the ancient landscape is juxtaposed against contemporary industry. The album is split into two distinct halves with tracks 1-5 reflecting the industrial landscape, while tracks 6-9 celebrate living alongside nature within the Welsh countryside.

Baglan Bay opens the set and “The Industrial Landscape” portion, consisting of soundscapes, drones, space effects and an electro combination of Hip-Hop and Dub grooves. Modus Operandi is next and quite different, sounding like Can in high energy song mode. The rhythm section pounds away at a potently relentless but cool grooving pace, accompanied by a bee swarm of effects and is coaxed along by a hypnotic guitar melody, and in the last minute winds down in alien electronic mode. This bleeds into Conveyor, a short but busily intriguing blend of electro dance floor grooves, haunting symphonic keys, and effects. The appropriately titled Industry/Catastrophe follows and combines machine shop rhythmic clatter, multi-lingual voice samples and melodramatic soundscape/drones and pulsations, making for a provocative mixture of disparate elements. We’re also treated to a Baglan Bay remix by Marko V of Salakapakka Sound System, which I like even better than the original, with its claustrophobic and darkly intense atmospherics, peppier rhythmic pulse and jarring effects.

The mood changes dramatically with the “In Harmony With Nature” segment of the set, starting with Under The Same Stars, a beautifully haunting song with vocals and lyrics by the mysteriously named Ghost Dust, who adds a Kate Bush feel to the tune. I like the spaced out sitar-ish drone that adds a Psychedelic Indian vibe, which is soon overtaken by an off-kilter rhythmic clatter before the song takes over again for the finale. The Parrog is a short piece that begins with a string section orchestral and sounds of nature blend, that soon transitions to searing deep space electronica. This serves as the intro to Glacial Express Way, which is a soaring slab of cosmically majestic beauty, with drawn out melodic and deeply anguished guitar licks, cavernous but nonetheless heavenly atmospherics, and a stumbling yet measured industrial rhythmic pulse with an overall interstellar vibe. And wrapping up the set on a New Age note is Poppit, which though it lacks vocals is very much a song, with a lovely dual (or looped) guitar melody, a throbbing yet melodic bass, gently tinkling bells, and the sound of waves crashing against the shore to adds just the right meditative support.

In summary… well, I don’t know how to summarize this. There’s lots of variety, even among the album’s two stated themes. What strikes me most is the contrasting elements that join forces in ways that don’t blur the lines between them but, rather, make the parts and pieces stand out while somehow fitting together in interesting ways. I think Wilson has well absorbed his various stated Krautrock influences and synthesized them into something very much his own.

Stream, download and purchase the CD at the Spurious Transients Bandcamp site:
Visit the Spurious Transients web site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Dan Pound – “Life Giving” (PoundSounds 2014, CD)

Life Giving is ambient-electronic space musician Dan Pound’s second release of 2014 and the follow up to Eros Thanatos. Pound includes some thoughts about the new album on his web site, but I think the opening line of his notes sums it up nicely: “Sublime, nocturnal space music“.

Some of the music is laser focused on deep space reflection. Age Of Innocence is a graceful if relatively brief snippet. I like the prominent use of guitar on the cosmically pastoral Only One. In Suspension is a meditative combination of deep space drift and whimsical cosmic ballet, with playful electronic configurations dancing across slowly soaring space waves.

But Pound kicks up the freaky factor in places too. The multi-layered title track brings together quirkily pulsating streams, syncopated patterns, space waves and drones, thereby striking a balance between image inducing scenes of space, hypnotic ambient drift, and a dash of Kosmiche-Prog. We’ve got some lengthier stretch out tracks too. The 16 minute Passing Through Time consists of heavenly Space-Ambient bliss, where the effects and melody are propelled by a gradually building electro rhythmic pulse. I like the harmonious contrast between feelings of serenity, alien effects, machine-like pulsations, and light melody. Throughout the piece the music slowly builds to a fuller symphonic feel, though the feeling is at all times light and angelic, and it’s all carried along by an increasingly energetic cadence which ebbs and wanes with the mood of the music. Taken By The Dream is similar, and I really dig the periodic funky groove which adds a bit of oomph to the cosmic tranquility, and as the music progresses the funk takes on a Dub characteristic which alternates with soothing melodic segments combined with pleasant drones and effects. Though it later becomes lightly orchestral, Life Pulse is one of the most purely ambient tracks of the set, where every bleep, rush of air and pulsation stands out prominently as the sounds and effects ride the crest of the slowly drifting soundscape wave. This segues seamlessly into the final track, What Matters Most, which winds the set down with a peacefully melodic finale.

If you like floating space electronica that teeters between New Age and Prog, you’ll dig Dan Pound.

For more information visit the Dan Pound web site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Joseph Benzola – “The Mystery Of Twilight” / “Collected Works: 2012-2014″ (Self-Released 2010/2014, DL)

“Joseph Benzola views his music as being Psychedelic. He’s well aware that it’s nowhere near to being acid rock, but he does feel strongly that the music is mind expanding. With a background that runs from the Beatles through the most innovative of Jazz masters like Sun Ra, Coltrane, and Miles, and on to rock iconoclasts like Beefheart and Zappa, Benzola synthesizes his influences to produce music that rarely sounds identifiably like any of them… even when he is paying tribute to them.”

That was the opening paragraph to the review article and interview with percussionist/pianist/improviser/composer Joseph Benzola I published in Aural Innovations #9 back in January 2000 (when still a printed zine!). It’s a detailed interview that provides excellent insight into Benzola’s music and is a recommended read (See the link at the end of this review). I’ve not written about Benzola’s music since 2003’s Winter in America, so it was a pleasure to immerse myself in these two albums: 2010’s The Mystery Of Twilight, and Collected Works: 2012-2014, released late last year, and both jam packed with over 100 minutes of music.

The Mystery Of Twilight includes 25 tracks, with about half being collaborations with various musicians and the rest Benzola solo pieces. Benzola plays drums, acoustic and electronic percussion, electronics, piano, flute, shenai, keyboards, prepared piano, saw blades, copper tubes, aluminum sheet and metal pail.

Dan Stearns contributes guitar, bass and electronics to three tracks. Forces in Motion is an interesting contrast between Funk, electronica, and often acid-fried Frippoid guitar licks, with the electronics getting increasingly frantic and the atmospherics more assertive as the piece progresses. Furred Antennae is similar, and I like the seemingly chaotic though measured percussive clatter as Stearns rips off his screaming licks. Frenetic piano and clangoring percussion take the lead on Music for Prepared Piano and Electronics, as a flurry of electronic bits and pieces zip about. Benjamin Smith contributes electric piano to Metamorphosis, which starts off with a merry blend of African and Caribbean influences, but soon shifts to a moody, ambient Jazz vibe, with ethereal electric piano accompanied by energetic Free-Jazz drumming, and the overall vibe varying in levels of darkness, intensity, and even a sense of doom. Kaden Harris contributes “dark ambient music” to Prism, which aptly describes the mood of the piece, and Benzola’s lyrical drumming injects to an ever developing sense of dark intensity and cinematic surrealism, as if they were creating the soundtrack to some kind of Psychedelic horror film for the Jazz and Space-Ambient set. For Lhasa, James Ross provides processed and tuned Tibetan Bowls and Greg Hooper contributes… get this… processed Jack Hammer. Yeah, raised my eyebrows too. But it works perfectly. The foundation of the piece is hypnotic ambience, augmented by the Bowls and Jack Hammer blasts, which are swept along by robotically methodical percussion. Nells Bells is like an ambient Jazz rocking King Crimson, with the father and son team of John and Jonathan Asta on guitars and drum loops, and Brion Gysin voice samples scattered throughout. The drumming Asta also contributes to Two in One, a frenzied, drum dominated Free-Jazz workout that in parts recalls the spirit of Coltrane at his most adventurous and kept me edge-of-my-seat spellbound for its entire 10 minutes. Lee Noyes takes the drum seat on Ridgepole Crowned, which features a Jazz piano and drumming duet that is beautifully serene, but also communicates a sort of avant-garde Gershwin theme. The Golden Triangle is an interesting piece, with John Balaban providing Ca Dao recordings of Vietnamese Folk Poems which he taped in the field from 1971-1972, the recordings played to a backdrop of Jazz drumming, percussion and sundry sounds.

Voice samples are the collaborators on two of the tracks. The Mushroom Velada includes the voices of John Cage and mushroom shaman Maria Sabina. I had to Google Sabina, who I learned was a Mazatec healer, curandera, and shaman from Oaxaca, Mexico, who is known for introducing the sacred mushroom ceremony velada to the world. She passed away in 1985 at the age of 91. If you read the interview with Benzola I link to below you’ll understand his interest in mushrooms. Anyway, it’s a short piece that features a whimsically presented and jauntily grooving array of electronics and percussion, with Sabina chanting, followed by a Cage discourse. And Patti & Lenni Crash the Stage at an Electro Senegalese Bar in the Bronx features the voice of Patti Smith reciting a poem called Brian Jones, and the guitar of Lenny Kaye, taken from a recording made in NYC in 1973.

The majority of the Benzola solo pieces are short, ranging from less than a minute to around 3 minutes. We’ve got a variety of solo piano workouts and African/Carribean influenced percussion/piano/electronic experiments. I like the spacey Jazz vibe of For Pharoah. MU is a brisk percussion and flute Jazz duet with both Indian and African influences. Portraits of the Dead-Derek Bailey features quirkily metered electronics and percussion, sounding like every game at an old time carnival thrown together and electronically treated. Of the two lengthier solo pieces, Khalid’s Journey to the Alabaster Horizon is one of my favorites of the set, consisting of monstrous jamming 60s styled Free-Jazz and ethnic percussion, with killer keyboard squalls that are like a blend of Sun Ra and Mike Ratledge. And Nausea is like an Industrial music and electronica conspiracy to create a noisily edgy adventure-in-sound dirge, with a female robot voice reciting a Dadaist narrative throughout.

As the title indicates, Collected Works: 2012-2014 brings us up to date on Benzola’s work from the past couple years. Several of the tracks are reflective solo piano pieces that would be just as much at home in a smoky lounge as a symphony stage (or your living room for that matter). These pieces are a joy, as Benzola is an accomplished and expressive ivory tickler. My hands down favorite of these is Satellite on a Pyramid, the title of which screams out Sun Ra, but is an impassioned composition that blends the free-wheeling spirit of Jazz with the thematic arc of Broadway, and adds a warm and adventurous dissonance.

We’ve also got several pieces that bring the Jazz and electronic worlds together. Asphodel features cosmic Jazz á la Sun Ra, with melodic tinkling keys that bear only the slightest hint of welcome dissonance, backed by steady drumming and light atmospherics. In Memoriam-For Ian Catchart starts off with a similar vibe, but is less playful and more ambient and introspective, though soon develops into a duet between Jazz drumming and a mischievous array of spaced out sounds. Angel of Light/Fallen Angel-For Kenneth Anger could just as easily been titled Meditation for Pinball Machine and Soundscape, with its rhythmically precise game room clatter and gradually building aura of pulsating, cavernous atmospherics. (Guest Chris Becker provides the “dark ambient music” on Angel of Light.) Jazz drumming and spaced out experimental electronics converge on Key Zero, with guest Jukka-Pekka Kervinen providing the electronics. The electronics are at times playful, hypnotic, orchestral and ominous on Portraits of the Dead-Karlheinz Stockhausen, and includes a voice narrative (of Stockhausen?) discussing the nature of sound. The spirit of its subject lives on Portraits of the Dead-Josef Zawinul, a cool grooving, rocking, and just a wee bit ethnic infused 70s styled Jazz-Fusion jam with a Psychedelic edge. The keys/drums combo on this track are exhilarating. Portraits of the Dead-Paul Motian and Steve McCall and Portraits of the Dead-Angus Maclise are both busily spirited and imaginative solo drum and percussion workouts.

Visual imagery provides the inspiration for five of the tracks. The cover Art of the album, by Russell Floersch and titled Electra, inspired the piece of the same name, a funky rocking slab of 70s styled Herbie Hancock Jazz-Fusion with a healthy dose of droning soundscape waves and freaky electronica. Two tracks are based on the photos of Lauren Matzen, both black and white images of a woodland scene that’s either in decay or just hibernating for the Winter. The Dreaming Tree is a high energy drum and percussion workout with the looming presence of electronic insects. The sounds of the forest are even more prominent via field recordings on Not There, with piano, strings and percussion music that reminds me of Sun Ra’s Music From The World Tomorrow. We also have two tracks based on the photos of Diane DiGioia, one of which looks like a sparse and grainy canvas, and the other a blue, partly cloudy sky, with an urban setting partly revealed to the left and right. The Persistence of Memory is a Jazz drum and effects workout, with a great channel separation mix as I listen under the headphones. And Peace Piece is a lulling and beautifully melodic solo piano tune.

In summary, Benzola inhabits several worlds – Jazz, Classical, Electronica, Kosmiche, Experimental – and synthesizes his influences to create absorbing, exciting, inventive and, yes, Psychedelic concoctions. WIRE should have done a cover story on this guy long ago.

To stream and download visit the Joseph Benzola Bandcamp site at:
I highly recommdned CLICKING HERE to read the review article and interview I conducted with Benzola back in 2000.

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Walls Of Genius – “Paleolithic” (HalTapes 2015, CDR/Download)

Hot on the heels of their Now Not Then reunion comes the follow up album: Paleolithic. Walls of Genius (WOG) were active from 1982-86, releasing oodles of cassette albums and marking out their own unique spot on the Post-Punk homemade music/cassette culture era. Recorded in Spring 2014, Now Not Then consisted of the first WOG reunion of Ed Fowler, Evan Cantor and Little Fyodor since 1986, and Paleolithic is the love child of a subsequent session recorded this past November.

The set opens with the marching band Psychedelic-Metal inspired Restless Army, which includes fun freaky slide whistle and spaced out alien effects and overall sounds like the inmates from some kind of Rock ‘n Roll “home” imposing themselves on halftime festivities. Rehab Is An Eternal State is a hip-shakin’ rug cutter that lays down a jazzy rhythmic pulse and showcases jamming Psych guitar and whimsical slide whistle on dueling leads, which makes for a fun combo and cool grooving freakout. Provocation is a rhythmically off-kilter but steady paced chunky rocker that recalls the noisy Psychedelic-Punk industrialism of Chrome. The acid fried your-brain-on-drugs fun continues on Paleolithic, for which WOG lay down a tightly wound beat with cool percussive bits and pieces, plus relentlessly jamming and totally awesome guitar leads that sound like an atomic structural mingling of John McLaughlin and Helios Creed. WOG blast off into space on In What Houses Dwell The Wicked?, with guest drum machine and synthesizer by Hal “Captain Mission” McGee. The pace is nervously frantic, punctuated by equally tense guitar, bass and slide whistle leads and lots of groovy spaced out electronics. WOG retain the core jamming theme throughout, while deftly morphing and varying the individual parts, resulting in a skittishly high voltage 15+ minute jam. And wrapping up the set is the 10 minute Astonished Worm. WOG set a frolicsome Funk groove, over which jamming Acid-Psych and lysergic hillbilly guitars duel, along with more slide whistle and effects, the whole being a schizophrenic wig-out that is completely crazy and absolutely freakin’ COOL!

Of course no WOG album would be complete without at least a couple cover tunes. Evan takes lead vocals and ukulele on Donovan’s Mellow Yellow, with Little Fyodor providing nutty vocal responses. Similar treatment is given to The Cat Came Back, the Harry S. Miller Folk type children’s song, which was already strange to begin with, and given the WOG treatment with Evan singing lead and Little Fyodor doing the screechy cat calls.

After a 30 year break these guys are kicking ass, creating music that is crazy, challenging, and imaginatively off the beaten path.

For more information visit the HalTapes web site at:
CLICK HERE to purchase Paleolithic
The web site is a goldmine of information for Hal McGee history and projects but you MUST click the Walls Of Genius link at the top of the screen for the information and music packed tribute to WOG.

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Cranium Pie – “Mechanisms Part 2″ (Fruits de Mer Records 2015, 2-LP)

It took nearly four years but Cranium Pie have finally released the follow up to 2011’s fantastic Mechanisms Part 1. Mechanisms Part 2 is a 2-LP set with a single approximately 19 minute track on each side. Though untitled, each side has distinguishable segments, though they typically flow fairly seamlessly from one to the next. But titles mean little here as the whole is like a tour de force of Prog-Psych-Kosmiche Rock circa 1969-73. Follow along as I stream of conscious describe this 4 sided experience and you’ll get a flavor for what Mechanisms Part 2 is about…

Side 1 starts off with an intense narrative segment that’s like a cross between Arthur Brown and the early Brainticket albums. This segues into a bouncy jazzy Kosmiche and orchestrated jam with swirling effects and haunting backing vocals, and a lead vocal that sounds like Frank Zappa. Additional treats include Jazz propelled Space Rock and soulful Psychedelic Prog-Blues with impassioned vocals and guitar leads. Side 2 begins with more jazzy Space Rock, augmented by luscious trippy fluttering flute leads and sweeping Mellotron-ish waves. This leads to a brief but delirious collage-like blend of early Pink Floyd song, spaced out cut-us with wild narratives, leading to a spaced out Hendrix bit that serves as a quickie stepping stone to a Prog-Jazz jam that’s like the Cosmic Jokers doing a freaked out rendition of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, followed by more Arthur Brown meets Brainticket heavy Prog intensity, and then a spaced out, soulful organ led jam with brief but crazy narrative samples and effects. Side 3 comes roaring out hot ‘n heavy with a fiery Prog-Funk rocking jam, which abruptly veers into a mélange of narration and effects that soon settles into a tripped out tune that sounds like some kind of Frank Zappa/Peter Hammill hybrid taking a whack at symphonic Prog-Psych, though freakiness abounds as we roller coaster zig-zag through a hair raising series of thematic twists and turns. When calm briefly settles we find ourselves floating groovily along with a cool Bluesy Psych jam, though lysergic disorientation rules the day via a crazed circus of effects with an underlying Pink Floyd foundation. This is followed by more high intensity yet soulful and jazzy Kosmiche rock, dark Van der Graaf Generator symphonics, spaced out orchestral rock, cosmic Jazz-Funky Soft Machine, and a bewildering parade of cut-ups and effects that culminates in the utter shock of a beautiful Folk-Prog song that concludes Side 3. Side 4 kicks off with a mixture of cool grooving Psychedelic Prog-Jazz jam, led by a killer Kosmiche organ sound. I really dig the dreamy and spaced out vocal song segment, which is followed by an intense slab of Space Rock and mindfucked montage experimentalism, including a surreal combination of wild narration, hypnotic organ, loose tripped out jamming and freaky effects, eventually morphing into a Doom-Prog song that retains a Jazzy feel and all the wigged out effects. And on we go, continually evolving, morphing and transforming. For pure Cool and Strange factor, Side 4 takes the cake.

So… how did that sound? Pretty crazy? Wildly disjointed? It’s not!! Cranium Pie stand on the highest mountain top holding up their influences like stadium lighting, throw them all into a bubble bubble toil and trouble cauldron, and through exquisite production and studio craftsmanship send the results streaming montage-evolution style throughout the four sides of this set. HIGHEST recommendation!

For more information visit the Fruits de Mer Records web site at:
Visit the Cranium Pie web site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz