ALBUM REVIEW: Mr. Bison – Seaward

Those who deserted Pisa-based riff kings, Mr. Bison, after their 2012 debut album We’ll Be Brief (Dracma Records) will recognise neither the physical nor the sonic entity that exists today. Only guitarist/vocalist Matteo Barsacchi remains from that initial incarnation, now replenished by two more Matteos – vocalist/guitarist Sciocchetto and drummer D’Ignazi – and the dry, ZZTop-influenced sound of that first effort has been gradually replaced by an oft euphoric leaning towards a form of Desert Psychedelia as progressive as it is retrospective. Their fourth album Seaward (Subsound Records / Ripple Music) is the band’s biggest step forward yet, displaying a level of invention and confidence that is both profound and joyous. Continue reading

Superfjord – All Will Be Golden

Finnish Prog Rock merchants Superfjord have the kind of name that should cement immediate status as cult legends. Somewhat marvelously, they also sound as if the last forty-five years have never happened. The powerful resonance of the music they produce has, incredibly, seen the band embraced by BBC Music, and second album All Will Be Golden (Svart) could leave the average rocker wondering if this is finally an avenue into awards that have previously excluded our genres. Continue reading

1968 – Ballads of the Godless

1968: the year following the Summer of Love, and the year before I was born. It’s 50 years ago now of course, and the Cheshire quartet bearing that year as its name is steeped in the Proto sound of that era. Having relentlessly gigged and released two EPs since their 2013 inception, Ballads of the Godless (HeviSike) is the band’s first foray into long-playing territory. Continue reading

Elephant Tree – Elephant Tree

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The eponymous debut album from London-based quartet Elephant Tree (Magnetic Eye Records) is graced by a sitar, no less, and is a bewitching amalgam of crushing weight and heartfelt melody. Its riffs akin to having both an elephant and a tree dropped upon you simultaneously, it nevertheless possesses a light dexterity which allows them to sashay gracefully through your ears.

‘Wither’ sees said riff growl, moan and howl along a wicked, lazy groove. The beauty here is in the decoration, the Low-end melancholy garnished with wistful, dreamy overlays: a solo oscillating through the mind, the Psychedelic vocals and atmosphere introducing Jar of Flies-era Alice in Chains to San Francisco trippers Sleepy Sun. Lead release ‘Dawn’, meanwhile, allies a filthy Stoner element to a Jon Davis-like scream.

The variety of the early stages is an absolute joy to behold: the hippy acoustic whimsy of ‘Circles’ sends those of us who grew up cocooned in Americana right back to the late 60s we yearn for. The riff of the ensuing ‘Aphotic Blues’ is so encompassing, pulverising, that this pleasant reverie is squashed like a bug: the crushing Sabbath-esque stomp still possessing enough cosmic, acid-drenched languor to keep the remains floating on air toward a vicious, pulsating close. ‘Echoes’, meanwhile, lends a 10CC mellowness to the bluesy notes and warm production before exploding in an Uncle Acid-like fuzz, its gentle mid-section bubbling beautifully.

It’s the juxtaposition between power and dreamy insouciance which is the real hallmark of this enthralling set. The titanic, warbling riff of ‘Fracture’ growls and crawls along like a sated behemoth while indolent, sleepy vocals caress its wounds. It’s a glorious feel, a heady atmosphere reeking of both patchouli oil and Kula:Shaker’s eastern melodies and rhythms, yet full of an easy vitality. This is all wonderfully brought together in the monolithic, drifting closer ‘Surma’, its moving, driving solos riding a trammelling riff toward a delicate coda of piano.

Fresh as a breeze, heavy as a mountain troll, and bloody addictive, even at this early stage Elephant Tree will sit atop a few weighty lists come the end of the year.

8.0/10.0

PAUL QUINN