Heron Oblivion

Heron Oblivion

"There's no shortage of excellent cosmic-sounding guitar music at the moment. But Heron Oblivion is an outlier – louder, spookier, and less optimistic. The songs are moody and dark, with clear moments of guitar solo-driven catharsis. In that regard, Heron Oblivion feel more indebted to the the original wave of cosmic guitar rock, the one that crested during the political ferment of the '60s. A long guitar solo, at that time, implied a certain spiritual heft, a yearning for transformation. There's a moment at the end of album closer 'Your Hollows' where Baird's voice ascends and hovers on a single note, blurring into what sounds like a sustained guitar tone or delay trail. The sound is organic, but unnatural in its timbre and length. It's a howl that slips seamlessly from the earthly into the supernatural." – Pitchfork

Pastoral pummel. Listening to Heron Oblivion's album feels like sitting in a lovely meadow in the shadow of a dam that's gonna heave-ho' any minute. Members of this new San Francisco combo have put in time in both raging and relatively tranquil psychedelic sound units—this is the premise and the synergy behind this very unique and special new album.

On the West Coast side, Ethan Miller and Noel Von Harmonson were together in the mighty Comets on Fire, who spent a large chunk of the mid-2000s playing unbridled, blistering rock worldwide, fueled by a steady diet of amphetaminized Crazy Horse, High Rise, MC5, Chrome, and Fushitsusha. They were molten and melting down at all times—with twin-guitar blowtorch jams inflected with Noel's careening electronic infusions, and songs and structures holding on to the wheel (barely) while destruction ensued. Noel did time afterwards with Sic Alps and Six Organs of Admittance, while Miller settled into a new level of interactions with Howlin' Rain and Feral Ohms. Charlie Saufley resided at the psychedelic pop fringes with his band Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound (kindred spirits to Comets to be sure.) He was joined in California by Meg Baird of Philadelphia's Espers. The East Coast connection, Baird was an already-established leading light in the modern psych-folk canon both in Espers and as a solo artist (most recently releasing the gorgeous Don't Weigh Down the Light LP on Drag City,) as well as original drummer for Philly's post-hardcore degenerates Watery Love.

Ethan and Noel were loosely jamming in an improvisational unit called Wicked Mace at this point. Via osmosis, Charlie and Meg came floating in for weekly hangs that still resided in a somewhat free zone. "We just did pure improv' for a few months under no pressure to 'be anything' or 'be a band'", says Miller, "I think Noel and I sort of pushed for the idea of Meg on drums, me on bass, and Noel and Charles on guitars just to mix it up a bit, get outside our usual mold a little." Though Noel and the newfound rhythm section took roles with instruments they were familiar with—but not particularly known for—ideas bubbled up quickly, and each member contributed to the songwriting process. "As expected, Charles and Noel had killer guitar chemistry, incredible fuzz sounds, symbiotic interplay," Miller recounts. Though a multitude of other parallel musical projects kept the pace slow for the foursome, it moved steadily forward—and down paths much less trodden and familiar for the players involved. It was something new, unfamiliar, and invigorating to say the least. Eventually, seven songs were tracked at Eric Bauer's San Francisco studio "The Mansion," and the results are stellar.

Three shades of light run through Heron Oblivion: Baird's rich, beautiful vocal approach, the locked-horns bass and drums of her and Miller's streamlined-but-motorik rhythm section, and a twin guitar tapestry that both aligns with the dreaminess of the songs and crackles out of containment to froth over the rim. It's a seamless but pronounced thing: "Oriar" sports dramatic spires of solos that fly high out of the gate, slowly settling in to lilting verses then exploding again, "Rama" drifts like an Opal/Fairport wedding with more tumbling, syrupy electric lines all around.

Meg's gorgeous singing resides within an untouchable domain and never struggles, nor has to combat the avalanche of guitars that ebb and flow. The only other record this could be remotely compared to maybe is the Slap Happy Humphrey record on Japan's Alchemy label years ago, where female vocal melodies combat sick walls of noise guitar. But in this case a definite West Coast style reigns—where elements meld rather than stand as opposing black-and-white walls: Even the heights of guitar destruction on Heron's "Faro" build steadily and organically from the beginning to end.

The group first properly gigged in April of 2014 opening for War On Drugs. They finished the record independently, then inked a deal with Sub Pop in early 2015. Most recently they toured the West Coast with Kurt Vile and Cass McCombs.

-Brian Turner/Music Director WFMU Jersey City NJ

Endless Boogie

Message found on No Quarter’s answering machine:

“Hey Mike-Thanks for sendin over the latest from Endless Boogie. So ‘Long Island’ makes, what, their 7th trip around the vinyl horn? You gotta give it to’em, they’re style of blast don’t ever get old. I once seen Boog Powell in this post game, after he’d hit two dingers off the A’s, & the interviewer asked “do ya ever get tired of blastin’em over the fence”? Boog ruminated this for a second, gave way to scratchin his head, then locked eyes w/the natterin pipsqueak, smiled & said ‘NOPE”!. And look at him now? The king of Baltimore BBQ.

So I was thinkin Endless Boogie is in the same class (okay, hold the Baltimore & hold the BBQ). Who don’t love’em? Mike, even GIRLS BUY THESE RECORDS. There ain’t no better testimonial to greatness than that! Let the pencil-neck ‘n fat bottomed crit boys yammer on about comparisons to Coloured Balls, Trad Gras, Velvets, etc. At the end of the day it’s the sonic stats that get pasted into Endless Boogie’s page of the Rock & Roll Almanac. And in them annals they’s battin 1000%. Pitchin’s solid to boot. So it seems a mystery to me why’s anyone would have to reach into the hyperbolic ether to pull down accurate tags. I mean, shit, ‘Long Island’ could almost be the second coming of ‘Brain Capers’. You know? I can see you makin that pissy- ass face of yours, & sure, a Mott The Hoople comparison is about as psychedelic as an onion. But you know who liked onions? Ollie fuckin Halsall for one. They say he ate his the same way Kevin Ayers breeze through life – pickled. Don’t think for uno momento that Norberto ‘Pappo’ Napolitano didn’t consume tons of the allium genus in his lifetime. The man ate’em slathered’em on grilled beef every day of his life liked it growed on trees! To say nothin of the band Troyka, whose member, Ron Lukawitski was THE originator of the Bloomin Onion. But that’s yrs ago, up to Edmonton, Alberta at a little place called Harry Hill’s where is was known as the ‘Puckered Fist’. I reckon they figured it was a well kept secret. How’s Outback Steakhouse come to….procure….the recipe is one of life’s great mysteries. Now I ain’t no licensed shaman but these ears don’t lie. And they’s insinuatin that ‘Long Island’ is chock full’ve more phenols ‘n flavonoids that you can shake a brace’ve Groundhogs albums at. And Mike? If you’s is still in the throes of menopause, I have it on good authority that Top Dollar’s voice is so witchy that it can destroy osteoclats, thus keepin them delicate bones of yours safe. The same was said about Ariel Bender’s back in the day too. But only when he was Luther Grosvenor. Tellin, don’t you think? Now pass the relish, I think I’m Patto.”

Roland Seward Woodbe
sent from the pay phone at Ding-Dong Dell’s
Scalp Level, Pa 2012

Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band

Chris Forsyth is a lauded guitarist and composer whose work assimilates art-rock textures with vernacular American influences. Long active in underground circles, he's recently released a string of acclaimed records of widescreen guitar rock, and in 2013, he assembled The Solar Motel Band, who have quickly developed a reputation as an incredible live act, provoking ecstatic comparisons to visionary artists such as Television, The Grateful Dead, Popul Vuh, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, and Richard Thompson.

The volatile chemistry of the Solar Motel Band is evidenced on their Solar Live 10.15.13 LP (Electric Ragtime), recorded live in Philadelphia and released in spring 2014.

Intensity Ghost, the first studio album by Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band was released to universal acclaim in October 2014 on the No Quarter label. It's been named one of the best releases of 2014 by Uncut (#34) and the New Yorker. Aquarium Drunkard called it "pure unadulterated guitar heaven - classic rock remade." The Quietus said, "It's just immense."

His newest release with The Solar Motel Band is the double album The Rarity of Experience (No Quarter), released in March 2016. Raves have been universal. Pitchfork called it "a near-perfect balance between 70s rock tradition and present day experimentation," NPR Music named Forsyth "one of rock's most lyrical guitar improvisors," and the New York Times calls him "a scrappy and mystical historian… His music humanizes the element of control in rock classicism (and) turns it into a woolly but disciplined ritual."

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