Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Brave Priest – Precious Summers [Stunned]/Predator Vision – II [Abandon Ship]

I never really cared much about Cream but it looks like psych power trio thing is still going strong and maybe, just maybe, I should have been paying more attention all these years to see what lead up to these tapes. Both these acts are much different than Cream though and (obviously) much much better. Funny enough, each group features a Matt I recognize, Portland-based Brave Priest features Matt McDowell on drums while on the east coast Matt Mondanile (Ducktails, Traum Ecke) plays in Predator Vision. Ehhh, enough of this aimless introduction already…
This Brave Priest tape comes on Long Beach’s Stunned imprint. The tape begins with “No Blood”, mellow wah’d guitar notes materializing in the misty tape hiss before a lethargic bass groove starts up along with minimal drumming. One of the three is singing but it’s not credited so can’t say who the voice belongs to. The song maintains a loose leisurely vibe for most of it’s duration but a drum-led rave ensues near the end of the track with some sinister bass notes before dropping back into the original groove and ending on dry, sparse percussive hits. “Vampire Canyon” follows and kicks the tempo up a couple notches. The band plays strictly as a unit here all following the same rhythmic pattern until they slip into separate suits, the guitar contributing a wah-fried lead, the bass creates a heavy-as-shit presence with only one note and the drumming keeps the whole thing afloat. Things get a bit faster and sludgy which you know I like. Probably my favorite song on the tape “Give You Bone” closes out side A. This one forgoes the guitar for a heavy bass/drums groove and barking vocals, a tad like the Jesus Lizard but with a jammy elasticity instead of “Gladiator”-style pummel. The guitar is used sparely and perfectly, providing an occasional bleating exclamation point. Great song, three to four minutes of bad vibes. Flip the tape for the side long jam “Yellow Revolution”. The piece features all three members going full throttle. Some really excellent guitar skree here and a thunderous thrashing from the rhythm section. Really dig McDowell’s detailed stickwork too (is stickwork even a term??). It sounds like there’s a little keyboard trill in there somewhere but maybe it’s just the guitar, the brief melodic glimmers provided by the guitar and bass are key to the track’s success. That the jam stays vicious, never getting boring, is a testament to the power of the groove and the group’s performance. Brave Priest quiets down near the end bringing in the first appearance of vocals on the side before bludgeoning the jam home.
II is receiving the reissue treatment from Abandon Ship after an initial release on Future Sound. The A-side contains “Eyes of the Demon” which is a groovy, good-natured psychedelic workout. There isn’t any info on who plays what but it sounds to me like drums and two guitars. Even when the drummer speeds the track up Predator Vision retains the buoyancy of the initial moments. There’s an effortless fluidity present here which is kinda rare in “rock” ensembles, at least in my experience. The guitarists use their wahwahs to great effect, sometimes with long strung out notes and sometimes with quick melodic riffs. The drummer must be given his due as well, who keeps things interesting rhythmically while always propelling the track forward. That isn’t to say the guitars don’t contribute anything rhythmically; their constant, precise interplay is possibly the strongest element of the tape. “This City’s a Jungle” fills out the second side. The track fades in rather gradually with a bubbly arpeggio and occasional space ship landing type sounds. Predator Vision (such a great name) lets the casual groove simmer as it shuffles along unhurried. A guitar produces some nice drawn-out synth-like passages as drums thump along methodically. Anchored by the drumming, more airy arpeggios give way to distortion and cymbal crashes. There’s a great, compact riff near the end that sticks around for maybe twenty seconds, I can’t really describe it but you’ll know it when you hear it. The jam winds down very slowly before an abrupt end.
Stunned did an excellent job packaging this Brave Priest tape as they always seem to do. Fantastic double-sided, beardo weirdo artwork by Cameron Stallones and pro-dubbed yellow tapes with an awesome logo imprinted on both sides. Abandon Ship adapted the previous artwork of II to a more pristine look with black tapes and cool printed label with Predator on it. Brave Priest is sold out at source but the Predator Vision tape is still available.

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