Lesotho, Summer Wars (Suspended Soul Tapes & Records 2021)

The instrumental trio from Boston, Lesotho, conjure the heavy from thin to thick in Summer Wars.

Lesotho is Kyle Loffredo (guitar), Cliff Cazeau (bass), and Zach Ganshirt (drums). They build instrumental constructs that are carefully engineered to be aurally received in broad range. That is, different people can get very different vibes from the same songs. You could tag this music in many divergent ways from shoegaze to ambient rock to … all sorts of other labels. On their Bandcamp page, the description reads in part “heavy instrumental post-everything.” There you go.

The EP has four tracks. In each one there are passages that are quiet among others that are loud. I don’t think I can be more vague about it. The progression is the former toward the latter (and back again) three out of four times, the odd track out being my favorite, “Pride & Sorrow.” The distinction here is more data than anything else.

What sets this music apart is its ability to make the listener more receptive to the self inhabiting the shell. The beautiful, melodic passages and the rougher ones could each exist separately in isolation, but they are both better when they are intertwined.

This music can show you a path towards whatever you have been avoiding no matter what it is or why you have been ignoring it. And, of course, if you would prefer not to ponder while you listen, the music can be enjoyed in the superficial lane, too. Recommended.

Summer Wars is out on Friday, August 20th, digitally through Bandcamp. Suspended Soul Tapes & Records will have a limited physical edition later on.

Band photo by Pine Street Studios.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://lesotho.bandcamp.com/releases

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/lesothoboston

Suspended Soul website, https://www.facebook.com/SuspendedSoulTapesRecords

Lesotho, Summer Wars (Suspended Soul Tapes & Records 2021)

Yawning Man, Rock Formations (Ripple Music 2021)

The classic album from Yawning Man, Rock Formations, gets a re-release through Ripple Music.

Originally unleashed in 2005 by Alone Records, Rock Formations has become a reference point for music with psychedelic desert vibes. The musicians are Gary Arce (guitar), Alfredo Hernandez (drums), and Mario Lalli (bass), and they created something that was immediately admired by both fans and peers.

Spacey desert surf music is what you can expect, heavy on all those attributes. That’s on every song. Each one has its own particular memorable inflection and direction. You can’t forget the opener, “Rock Formations,” because it gets at you first with its beguiling ways. “Perpetual Oyster” has compelling and engaging percussion that stands out, and then “Stoney Lonesome” is an unforgettable melancholy whisper. 

“Advanced Darknuss” has a very sinister construction, despite the title. It does not instill dread, but it definitely creates a mood. I could say the same thing about “She Scares Me” but I would mean something very different. That song puts me in mind of a David Lynch movie. For a complete switch in mood, try “Buffalo Chips,” which makes me feel like I am in a 1960s western being filmed in Spain. 

This instrumental music is sometimes haunting, sometimes quirky, and at other times it sparks nostalgia in you on an individual level. This album is groundbreaking, and it will be considered a classic whenever enough time passes for that label to kick in — I wouldn’t feel bad about calling it that already. If you haven’t heard it yet, this new incarnation is an excellent opportunity. Recommended.

Rock Formations is out now in digital and vinyl and can be had through Bandcamp or Ripple Music’s site.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/rock-formations

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/yawningmanofficial

Yawning Man website, http://yawningman.com/

Ripple Music, https://www.ripple-music.com/

Yawning Man, Rock Formations (Ripple Music 2021)

Live Music: Barbacoa and Quiltro at Backside 405, Burlington

Higher Ground kicked off its 2021 summer outdoors live concert series at Backside 405 over Memorial Day weekend with Quiltro and Barbacoa.

The venue is Backside 405 located at 405 Pine Street in Burlington, Vermont. It is outdoors with one stage, food trucks, and a bar – it is a lot like a mini-festival set-up. Open air music is planned for every Friday and Saturday through August.

The first live bands played on Saturday, May 29th. They are both three-piece instrumental rock bands but they play very different music.

Quiltro is a space rock band, laying down laid back, ethereal lines meant to envelope you and send you on a journey, Their first album came out last year and you can get it at the Bandcamp link below. The band is Mark Taylor (guitar and keys), J. D. Hoffmann (drums), and Mike McKinley (bass).

Barbacoa is often described as a surf rock band. They do play in that vein, and also rockabilly along with other recognizable stylings. The music is upbeat and peppy – great for summer nights. Their latest album is Pharoah’s Camaro which came a couple weeks ago (link below). The band is Bill Mullins (guitar), Jeremy Fredericks (drums), and Kirk Flanagan (bass).

For now the crowd is limited to 500 people but could grow as the summer warms and the limits start to melt away. Backside 405 is a great place to spend Friday and Saturday nights – I’ll be there most every weekend.

You can get tickets at the Higher Ground link below, including a season pass to all the shows.

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Higher Ground, https://highergroundmusic.com/

Quiltro

Bandcamp, https://quiltro.bandcamp.com

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/QuiltroMusic

Barbacoa

Bandcamp, https://barbacoa.bandcamp.com/music

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Barbacoa-184518134930665

Live Music: Barbacoa and Quiltro at Backside 405, Burlington

Bernth, Elevation (2021)

YouTube guitar virtuoso Bernth releases his first solo instrumental metal album, Elevation.

Bernth is Bernd Brodträger, a well-known guitarist who has played for many bands and done a lot of studio work. He has become extremely well known due to the popularity of his YouTube channel. His background is firmly rooted in extreme and heavy metal, and he can play absolutely anything on guitar.

I started listening to instrumental rock guitar back at the beginning of my musical interest when I heard Frank Zappa’s Shut Up ’N Play Yer Guitar. Zappa became my favorite guitarist then and he will always be my favorite. It’s a formative thing. Hearing Zappa perked my ears up to other instrumental guitar, and the next one I heard that made a big impact on me was Joe Satriani’s Surfing With The Alien. It blew my mind. And then Steve Vai (because he had played for Zappa).

So, since way back then I am looking out for metal and rock instrumental music. The new Bernth album is right up my alley. The playing is unassailably impeccable and practically unbelievable. There is no question that Bernth rises above any standard you’d care to set.

Pick any track from the nine on the new album and listen in amazement. Both electric and acoustic (mostly electric) music, at times delivered at astonishing speed. But of course it is not all about the speed. There are infectious melodies and memorable riffs along with the ravaging lead work. Since it is all instrumental music the guitar does the singing, too, and truly I don’t miss the lyrics or voice at all. The variety of the music keeps you interested and engaged throughout. It is a lot of guitar, of course, so you have to be wanting that to listen in. If that is you then don’t let this one pass by. Recommended.

Elevation is out tomorrow, May 14th. If you hit the Bernth store link below you’ll find many bundles of music and merch.

Links.

Bernth store, https://bernth.myshopify.com/

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/user/Bernthguitar

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/bernthofficial

Bernth website, https://www.bernth.at/

Bernth, Elevation (2021)

Aziola Cry, The Ironic Divide (Sensory Records 2021)

Chicago instrumental metal trio Aziola Cry release their first album in twelve years, The Ironic Divide.

The band is Jason Blake (Warr guitar), Mike Milaniak (guitar), and Tommy Murray (drums). That looks like two guitars and drums, which might lead us down the path of thinking that the sound will be a little hollow. Not at all. For one thing, Jason Blake is playing a Warr guitar which has a huge range (do a quick internet search on the instrument to find out how amazing it is), and besides that, the compositions themselves are designed to fill your ears with layers of sound and depths of meaning.

There is a story the musicians are working with, too, and it helps to know it going in because there is no narrative vocal. “The forty-eight-minute album features four songs which tell the story of one person’s final descent. There are two types of people in this world. There are those who do good for others and make a positive contribution to society in some way. Then, there are those who do evil and hurt fellow humans. There is no rationale behind their behavior. They are cowards. This is their story.”

Naturally, the music is guitar heavy, driven by riffs and vastly enriched through the expansion of the instruments in an impressive variety of approaches and applications. The longest piece is the title track at twenty one minutes, and the others are hefty as well. For me, though, I took it all in as one work rather than trying to assemble separated meanings or looking at it like a track-by-track chronology.

The music is ambitious and there is no mistaking this for something other than a metal album. Instrumental heavy metal has always fascinated me and I find it to be one of the best ways to imbibe in the form. This is my first pass at Aziola Cry and I am off now to listen to the earlier albums. You can concentrate on this music intently or have it instead surround you as part of your environment. Either way, it will soak in. Recommended.

The Ironic Divide hits the streets on March 26th in CD digipak or digital forms.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://lasersedge.bandcamp.com/album/the-ironic-divide

Website, https://www.aziolacry.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/aziolacrymusic

Label, https://www.lasercd.com/cd/ironic-divide-preorder

Aziola Cry, The Ironic Divide (Sensory Records 2021)

Stellar Death, Fragments Of Light (2021)

Stellar Death’s debut album is an adventure in instrumental space prog that winds through disparate corners of the universe to coalesce in a fascinating unified semblance.

Matt Kozar and Scott Loose are the duo Stellar Death, playing instrumental music that lands a heavy blow. They have worked together for many years in the band Brave, and decided to branch out with this new project in order to shed any constraints on form. Both are guitarist and play keys, with Loose minding the percussion. There are eight pieces on the album, most in a fairly long design.

The opening song is a seven minute outline titled “The Astronomer.” Throughout its course, many of the elements and atoms that combine in the musical creation of the set are first introduced, including mesmerizing ambient sequences and forceful guitar movements. “Endless” is filled with sadness the way that Frank Zappa’s “Watermelon In Easter Hay” is, and that is meant to be a high compliment. Its companion piece, “Betelgeuse,” moves on from trauma and morning, turning a corner and picking up power. Heavier guitars and more rambunctious percussion returns in “Binary Collapse” to close side one.

On the back four, solitude is a reinforcing theme and a channel for momentous contemplation. “Everywhere and Nowhere” has quite dramatic moments, while “Critical Mass” presents the most tense passages in the eight minute leg. Stellar Death winds it down with “Afterglow,” offering up a spell of reflection and meditation. While this album will appeal perhaps most to the ambient crowd as it is on the less technical side of prog, anyone who likes instrumental rock will find a confrère here. Recommended.

The street date for Fragments Of Light is January 8th. Direct business is at Bandcamp for the download. Three songs are available now and you can listen to them instantly if you preorder the album.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://stellardeath.bandcamp.com/album/fragments-of-light

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/stellardeathdc

Stellar Death, Fragments Of Light (2021)

Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, Blitz Sessions review (2020)

Blitz Sessions is like a healing treatment, a therapy from the post-rock instrumentalists Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge.

“Instrumental love-letters to arctic ecosystems” is the entire entry in the ABOUT section of the band’s Facebook page. Brief and to the point. I can’t think of a better one line summary of this young Norwegian band’s sound. I lived in Alaska for ten years and I have been to the namesake site. This music would absolutely fit in there.

Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge is a five-piece band: Karl Løftingsmo Pedersen, Gunnar Christian Blix, Eivind André Imingen, Joakim Storeide, and Bjørn Trygve Skjerstad. The music relies heavily on synthesizers and steady guitar insinuations and pleas. Think Godspeed You! Black Emperor and you will be on the right track. Long passages with subtle variation or repetition and returning musical themes are the mainstay. There are three long pieces with one of them being split in two so count four if you like at seven+ minutes each – long enough to lull you. The music is like salve in that way that can be applied lightly (in the background while you are doing something else) or more liberally and with determination if you are looking for the somber tones to draw your daily anguish out of your mind like a slowly ebbing tide.

Out on Friday August 21, there is a cassette available at Bandcamp as well as the download option. I do not listen to this kind of music all the time, but when I want to hear it, this is what I am looking for.

Links.

https://yukondeltanational.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/YukonDeltaNational

https://www.fws.gov/refuge/yukon_delta/

Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, Blitz Sessions review (2020)