Austin Chronicle Exclusive Stream of “The Shadow Over Overkill”

Kaiser, Cogburn, Hoffnar & Håker Flaten Rock Free and Lovecraftian

A track premiere from the Mountains of Excess

Henry Kaiser / Chris Cogburn / Ingebrigt Håker Flaten / Bob Hoffnar: En Las Montañas de Excesos

Henry Kaiser / Chris Cogburn / Ingebrigt Håker Flaten / Bob Hoffnar: En Las Montañas de Excesos

Henry Kaiser lays out his artistic credo: “I’m a die-hard improviser and I’m a die-hard experimentalist. I always want to try things I haven’t done before and see what happens.”

The premise behind the veteran Bay Area guitar wizard’s next release pivots on collaborating with new musicians. That scenario came to fruition on a 2015 session that found him interfacing with a trio of A-list Austin improvisers: bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, drummer Chris Cogburn, and pedal steel expert Bob Hoffnar.

“There was no plan,” admits Kaiser. “There was no discussion. We hadn’t met. We came to the studio, set up, and we played without talking much at all.”

The resulting En Las Montañas de Excesos (In the Mountains of Excess) cuts loose an expressionistic, free-form fusion alternating between aggressive musical pile-ons and anti-gravitational space sections. Cogburn’s malleable meters and Håker Flaten’s muscular electric bass serve as the quartet’s rhythmic tail fin. Meanwhile, Kaiser and Hoffnar beam prisms of squirrely melodies that challenge electric guitar and pedal steel conventions.

While it’s tempting to deem such unrestrained movements as free jazz or avant-garde, Kaiser characterizes it as something more familiar.

“It’s just rock & roll,” he chuckled over the weekend. “It’s improvised rock & roll and I grew up with a lot of that in the Bay Area where it went to a lot of crazier extremes than it did on the albums by San Francisco bands like the Grateful DeadMoby Grape, and Quicksilver Messenger Service.

“You’ve got little fringe things with improvisation in what passes for rock & roll nowadays,” he continues, “but the way pop music has become so conservative and mainstream, most of what sells a lot isn’t Jimi Hendrix playing ‘Purple Haze.’ It’s indie rock that’s about as experimental as Perry Como.”


En Las Montañas de Excesos
 arrives April 6 on Austin’s Self Sabotage Records. The collection subdivides into two continuous vinyl sides as well as four longer digital tracks. Each is titled with the self-effacing corruption of an H.P. Lovecraft story. Lead cut, “The Shadow Over Overkill,” streams here for the first time:

Sean Morales’ Call It In Reviewed by Austin Chronicle

Sean Morales

Call It In (Super Secret)

Texas Platters

Fresh off the homegrown James Arthur’s Manhunt, Virginia-bred multi-instrumentalist Sean Morales’ solo debut prioritizes the right feel over high definition. The album’s rough veneer is indicative of its single-occupancy origins, but Morales’ rich songcraft and compelling arrangements exude a warm human scale that never veers into obscurity for its own sake. Leading with a cover burns in the less-traveled road at the outset, Chris Spedding’s “Video Life” crackling with heady effervescence. The title track flips the mood to dark noir with growling, flanged vocals and a menacing riff, and multiple songs start with acoustic blues before leaping in different directions. The contemplative country-blues of “Bring Me Home” evokes the troubled soul of Skip Spence. Utility guitarist and saxman Jonathan Horne of Young Mothers makes over Faust instrumental “Party 1” as a slow-building traffic jam to close.

***.5

Austin Chronicle Review of Terminal Mind’s Recordings

Terminal Mind

Recordings (Sonic Surgery)

Texas Platters

All so-called “art-rock” should have actually rocked. Like Terminal Mind in 1979. Prior to reincarnating as a psychedelic shaman in noisy freak-out specialists Miracle Room and, more recently, Evil Triplet, Steve Marsh was a wired and gangly punk bassist with a heartful of artful angst. Alongside future Skunks/Big Boys twins Greg and Doug Murray manning drums and guitar, Marsh – looking like David Byrne’s titular psycho killer brought to life – howled nihilist anthems like “I Want to Die Young” while adding his thrum to a sound comparable to how the Ramones might have sounded had their biggest influences been Roxy Music and Can. For proof, look no further than this first-ever compilation of just a four-song 1979 EP, some cuts on Live at Raul’s, then a brief incorporation of keyboardist Jack Crow. Done by 1981! A sackful of unreleased demos and live tapes moldering in Marsh’s dresser drawer sweeten the deal. Modern technology strips away the grime, letting pristine blasts of sonic neurosis like “Black,” “Obsessed With Crime,” and “Bridges Are for Burning” call us all to arms anew.

****

Austin Chronicle Exclusive Premiere of “Refugee” From Terminal Mind

Lost & Found: Terminal Mind

Thirty-seven years after breakup, debut LP hits

The anthem on Terminal Mind’s sole release, a self-issued 7-inch stamped with the universal “no” symbol that routinely fetches over $100 on eBay, spun a nihilistic punk declaration: “I Wanna Die Young.”

Vintage Terminal Mind (Photo by Ken Hoge)

Instead, the short-lived Austin band (1978-1981) has aged to a vintage in which there’s now demand for a long overdue retrospective. Friday, homegrown reissue specialists Sonic Surgery Records unveil the bluntly-titled Recordings, a remastered collection of the band’s four-song EP, quality live cuts, and previously unheard demos.

Grayscale art-rock with punk desperation channeled through instrumental and songwriting legitimacy, the triad of bassist/vocalist Steve Marsh with twins Doug Murray and Greg Murray on guitar and drums, respectively (they later added synth player Jack Crow), remains an act locals still celebrate despite a short lifespan and being under-recorded. Historically, Terminal Mind’s music hasn’t been easy to come by – save for those who’ve nabbed copies of the rare EP or Live at Raul’s compilation – so Recordings is a worthy dive into a crucial and obscure sliver of the cap city catalog.

The melodic “Refugee,” from the original EP, demonstrates Marsh’s penchant for meaningful rock songwriting. The chorus spells it out:

Refugee, that’s the way the real world treats you.
Did you think such a person could exist?
In a war, there are winners and there are losers.
I’m in between.

Before Recordings drops Friday, give “Refugee” a spin here.”

Austin Chronicle Reviews ‘Hong Kong Cab’

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten’s Time Machine

Hong Kong Cab (Self Sabotage)

Texas Platters

Bass solos are all well and good, but why listen to an album’s worth of unaccompanied thrums without the band dynamics that make the grooves come alive? Happily, Hong Kong Cab, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten’s fourth solo bass album, is a different breed. Unconcerned with unadorned rhythm, the Norway-born/Austin-based jazz maverick uses his instruments as paintbrushes, expressing himself with slashing strokes and controlled splatter like Jackson Pollock. He bows his double bass like a butcher cutting meat on “Hotel Isabel,” plucks his Rickenbacker into echo oblivion on “Time Machine,” and disintegrates his gear on the title track. Even when he just plain grooves on “Guts” and “All or Nothing,” Flaten stretches the boundaries of what it means to be in the pocket.

***.5

Austin Chronicle Review of Crack Pipes’ Beauty School

The Crack Pipes

Beauty School (Sonic Surgery)

Texas Platters

When a band known for garage rock makes its Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the results usually don’t live up to either its ambitions or its prior achievements. That’s not the case for the Crack Pipes’ Beauty School. Originally released in 2005, the third LP from the Austin quartet revels in its music nerd membership raiding their substantial record collections for inspiration beyond Sixties garage psych sampler Nuggets or blues-punk archivists Fat Possum Records. Not satisfied to simply regurgitate the signature hard-rocking sound of the latter institution, the Crack Pipes instead showcase a wide but logical diversity, expanding on its foundation with successful excursions into soul, country, and psychedelia. Given the variety of approaches documented here, the band bolsters a sonic palette beyond its guitar/bass/drums/harmonica core. Horns, guest vocals, prominent keyboards, and even, on the instrumental reprise of the title track, strings and autoharp all throw in. Despite setting off in so many directions, the album doesn’t feel like a various artists compilation. The avant-garde electronics of “East Side Injections” contrast with the James Brown funk of “Make Out Party,” yet both tracks feel cut from the same Cracked cloth. The album’s heart resides in “Q&A,” a flowering mini-epic that begins with soulful spoken social commentary before erupting into a frenzied blaze of rock & roll. Revived as a double LP set with improved artwork and a careful remaster that makes the music really sing on vinyl, this definitive edition of Beauty School is the Crack Pipes’ masterpiece.

****