SOUNDS FROM THE STONER ROCK UNDERGROUND: Electric Magic Edition

Because I have all kinds of write-ups on my hard-drive for all sorts of albums you’ve never heard by all numbers of bands you’ve never heard of, it’s time for another high-in-fiber edition of Sounds from the Stoner/Doom/Psych/Whatever Underground, this one zooming in on German imprint Electric Magic Records.

I’ve been getting all sorts of stuff from this haus of heavy psych for a little while, after establishing contact with head honcho Christian Peters via Facebook.  Dude also happens to be the main man behind the Samsara Blues Experiment, so you’ll surely see some of their stuff if you scroll down.  (This would be your cue to start scrollin’…)

Suns of Thyme – Fortune, Shelter Love and Cure

Man, if I had a nickel for every stoner band that was sons—or suns—of someone, I’d have a joint in my hand right now!  Alas, these Germans don’t really play stoner rock, per se.  I mean, the album title’s giving me a bit of a Simon & Garfunkel vibe—if the 60’s soft-rock duo were pot-smoking hippies, maybe.

Opener “Violent Eyes” starts off slow, building up to a decent desert gallop reminiscent of Dead Meadow or Quest For Fire, with an accented Ian Wurst-bury on vocals.  Come to think of it, this sounds sorta like that BXI EP Astbury did with Boris—albeit with more synths.  “The Way,” thankfully, isn’t a Fastball cover, but more of a slow curve, some ringing, jangling psych riffs increasing to a cacophony over which droning vocals struggle to break through.

The band’s been compared to Tame Impala and The Black Angels, and one can certainly hear such influences in “One Song” and “Soma (God for Gods),” the latter of which boasts a sitar solo that also brings Montreal’s Elephant Stone to mind.  “Blue Phoenix Tree” contains the closest thing to a heavy riff you’ll hear on here while “Asato Maa” offers some solid psych passages—but after a while, the languid, melodic jangling seems to droop and drift a little too much.  Needs more cowbell… or something.

RATING: 6.5

 

This is Ghost Country – self-titled

This is Bat Country would be a much better band name IMO, but these German kids ain’t too shabby.  That said, they do have some strange song titles. “Smooth Unfoo” hits with all the subtlety of a Mr. T punch, a pounding attack punctuated with much salty language that slows to a sludgy crawl, while “Ztupe – Red Area” isn’t nearly as mysterious as one might expect, a straight-ahead stoner-rock jam with shades of Fu Manchu.

“Tekken,” the band’s ode to the classic video game, starts off slow with a lone bluesy guitar riff, before springing into action like Yoshimitsu gone post-sludge.  Meanwhile “Black Trekker” (huh?) takes a more grungy approach, and “Bootes,” despite being misspelled, ends the album on an epic note, a spacey eight-and-a-half-minute jam with some solid sludgy sounds.  The whispered section drags on a bit, but they make up for it with a killer closing sequence that’s heavier than a ton of wiener schnitzel.  Hey man, the titles might be a little quirky, but these tunes are pretty decent.

RATING: 7

 

The Lone Crows – self-titled

The self-titled debut from this Minnesota quartet shows that despite hailing from a frigid place, these boys can still lay down some hot ‘n heavy jams.  Opener “Lone Crow” has a bit of a Zeppelin vibe with its extended buildup, which explodes into driving stoner-rock territory.  Vocals are slightly spacey and droned out, but can deliver some bite when needed.

“Can’t Go Home Again” is a slower, drawn-out number befitting of that blues-rock moniker, but still delivers some tasty licks just in the nick of time, including a righteous guitar solo.  “Heard You Call” offers a bit of a Santana vibe (think “Black Magic Woman,” not the duet with Rob Thomas), while “You Got Nothing” has shades of Deep Purple.

Gotta love the line “You’ve got sunshine in your heart/I’ve got moonshine in mine.”  These kids look pretty young in their band photo, though…  Can they even drink legally?  In any case, they certainly seem to have talent and soul beyond their years—and are well versed in the music of an era well before their times.  Good on ye, lads!

RATING: 7.5

 

Buddha Sentenza – South Western Lower Valley Rock

Though the album title conjures up images of the Arizona desert, these guys are actually from Germany.  A self-styled psychedelic Krautrock band—it’s a genre they can legitimately lay claim to, anyways.

There is plenty of meat on this platter, a total of 14 tracks, to be precise, including a variety of intros, outros and interludes.  After one such intro, “Time Wave Zero” kicks into gear with some swirling synths and spoken-word sound clips.  This number creates a driving instrumental atmosphere before slowing things down to a crawl, desert-rock riffs trading off with some warm organ licks leading into a nice, slow jam—which gradually builds up speed into trippy space-rock territory.  “Arrested Development” doesn’t exactly have visions of Jason Bateman dancing in my head, but it’s a solid space-rock number with some squealing synths and heavy grooves.

“Spanish Revenge” is a swirling piece of spaced-out psychedelia that brushes up against the eight-minute mark, while “Debris Moon” takes things one minute further with its laid-back vibes.  They end things off with a couple shorter tracks—not including those five-second interludes—before “Psychonaut” seals the deal with six minutes of mellow vibes that do nothing to hint at the Sabbath reference in the title.  All in all, it’s a long strange trip…

RATING: 7.5

 

Samsara Blues Experiment – Live at Rockpalast

While they’re not exactly a household name on these shores, the Samsara Blues Experiment is enough of a presence in Germany to have appeared on the legendary Rockpalast TV concert series.  This performance was culled from their Crossroads Festival appearance in October 2012 and draws heavily from their debut album, Long Distance Trip, released in 2010.

The bluesy, trippy, heavy psych jams keep rolling for nearly 80 minutes, with an acoustic version of “Singata Mystic Queen” bookending the plugged-in version that gets things going off the top.  Not a lot of breaks, or crowd noise, though we do hear some polite applause after “Army of Ignorance” and “Into the Black.”  Their proper set concludes with a crushing 18-minute rendition of “Double Freedom,” which, believe it or not, is actually shorter than the studio version!  But maaaaan, you’re gonna lose yourself in those heavy grooves…

This album certainly sounds polished—a shitty bootleg it is not.  I suppose you could expect that from a German TV festival appearance, but really, aside from the occasional clapping, it pretty much sounds like a studio recording, for better or for worse.  Still, if you’ve never heard these guys before, it wouldn’t be a bad place to start, I suppose.

RATING: 8

Peace,

Greg

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Gruesome Greg

Seahawks/Stamps/Flames/Zags/Jays/Raptors fan and lifelong metal head with a beer gut and a self-deprecating sense of humour. Reviewer/blogger (Yon Senior Doomsayer) for Hellbound.ca.