Band: De Lorians | Album: De Lorians | Genre: Progressive rock, Jazz fusion | Bandcamp
The debut from this Japanese quintet is a brain-melting 32-minute instrumental excursion full of Zappaesque weirdness and flavors of Japanese zeuhl. Saxophones and guitars often trade the lead, twisting out weird solos over a jazzy rhythm section. Hints of the weirder end of the Canterbury sound, a la The Soft Machine, can be heard, particularly in the way the keys are utilized. These eccentricities can, at times, feel scattershot and unfocused, which does detract from the experience.
Band: Flesh of the Stars | Album: Mercy | Genre: Doom metal, post metal, progressive metal | Bandcamp
Chanting vocals and slow, rumbling guitars take center stage on this release. Amid the big, grim riffs, the band knows when to pare things back and use minimalism to great effect. Gentler acoustic moments offer frequent respite from the crushing doom. Acoustic guitar and piano are often used alongside the more distorted and bombastic instruments for striking contrast.
Band: Elder | Album: The Gold & Silver Sessions | Genre: Krautrock, Stoner metal | Bandcamp
Elder’s last LP, Reflections of a Floating World, featured the band’s first real foray into krautrock on the song “Sonntag”. This album sees the band dive head-first into the trance-like, restrained jamming the genre is known for. Elder’s usual bombast does eventually arise, and always in a way that feels organic. The music builds gradually as fuzz becomes more pronounced and tones more aggressive. The climax to the 18-minute “Weißensee” is especially satisfying, though some of the build-up to that peak does grow stale.
Band: Oenos | Album: Noir II | Genre: Post metal | Bandcamp
The world does not lack for metal bands whose entire image is centered around marijuana, but Oenos is the first I’ve found which draws its inspiration from wine. Each song on this album was inspired by and named after a different bottle. The music on Noir II is about midway between black and doom metal. There are plenty of slow, menacing, atmospheric moments, but faster, more aggressive passages abound as well. The songs are highly dynamic, and gentler acoustic moments are contrasted smartly against the distortion.
Band: Oh Sees | Album: Face Stabber | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Jazz fusion | Bandcamp
Oh Sees are a band I’d long heard good things about, but prior to last year’s Smote Reverser, I never got the hype. Smote Reverser was fantastic, and Face Stabber continues in a similar sonic vein. The band mix punk, psychedelia, prog, krautrock, and jazz into a swirling, smoky double album. And despite its daunting length, the music is consistently engaging. Bluesy, fuzzed-out guitars, proggy organ licks, and funky clavinet and piano lines somehow work in harmony. My only complaint on Face Stabber, as on Smote Reverser, is that some of the jamming on the longer songs can feel tedious and long-winded.
Band: The Tea Club | Album: If/When | Genre: Progressive rock, Art pop | Bandcamp
This album is frustratingly inconsistent. About half the album is bland, unimpressive indie pop, but the other half is striking, ambitious prog. This album’s stronger moments take punkish energy and fuse it into weird guitar lines and soaring synths. Unfortunately, its weaker moments wallow in sweet acoustic blandness. The nearly 28-minute closer, “Creature”, suffers from the same imbalance as the rest of this album. About half of this suite shows strong creative instincts full of inventive instrumentalism, but the other half left me bored.