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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Album Of The Week-High Watt Electrocutions-"Desert Opuses" (2009)

The Album Of The Week is "Desert Opuses" by High Watt Electrocutions.

This album has a little bit of everything, citing influences such as Hawkwind, Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Spacemen 3, The God Machine, to newer bands such as High on Fire, Comets on Fire, Sunn O))), they also throw in a hint of Joy Division and Velvet Underground, as well as obscure classic rock such as Love and Thirteenth Floor Elevators. By their influences you get a good idea what High Watt Electrocutions sounds like. This album comes highly recommended. Read the reviews below, then go buy the album. You won't be disappointed!


"With an album named like that, what did they think we’d expect? I was ready to settle for a second rate uninspired session of some Kyuss worshipping fuckers. And I love Kyuss, but I’ve had more than my fill of knock offs. Who knows? Maybe that was the strategy behind High Watt Electrocutions; distract the listener, make him/her think of a specific sound, then shock him/her with something different and even, original. The surprise element is certainly refreshing. It works. Because what you get is dense, hypnotic, drug-addled madness. But there is none of that standard rock bullshit around here. For that, go listen to Alabama Thunderpussy or some shit…

Even though there are certain elements to Desert Opuses that will recall the tired nature of stoner rock, that sub genre as is widely recognized is too limiting to describe this. To get the commonalities behind, well, besides the album title we can cite certain fuzzy sound that’s inspired most of these guitars. So when Ryan Electrocution himself (the sole man behind this) says High Watt Electrocutions is inspired by Godflesh, Spacemen 3, Hawkwind, Black Sabbath, Spiritualized and the Stooges, he is coming clean. There is a bit of each all over Desert Opuses.

The fuzzy, furry guitars dose off forever. Despite the experimental and bold nature of this album, the tunes are compact and there is very little fucking around. The tunes have no beginning, middle, nor end. There are no ten-minute songs either. The riffs are not upfront, nor are the songs based around them. In fact, the most straight forward cut is opening cut “Mountains of the Pharoahs” with its bass heavy density and Kyuss-like background guitars. It’s far from a conventional song, but that’s as close as High Watt Electrocutions ever get to radio format.

The rest of Desert Opuses is spent weaving a much more delicate album. There is a strong ethnic vibe, “Ode to Snakecharming” sounds like something written by some Godflesh-influenced messianic guru from Egypt, while “Light at the Speed of Sound” would have fit nicely in a Velvet Underground record. There is that droney feeling to this, like the author is trying to hypnotize the listener, so the guitars draw wavy lines and sound like sitars. The bass is sparse and omnipresent, check out those fat strings in “Obliteration”; this is string-based psychedelia.

Desert Opuses is an absorbing listener. This is the type of album that takes time to make and more time to appreciate. I imagine some genius cult leader making music like this." (Deaf Sparrow, 4.5 out of 5)


"Since High Watt Electrocutions main man Ryan Settee prescribed a headphone listen in the liner notes, I broke out my dusty old pair and went for it as directed. Yes, I do everything liner notes tell me. It’s not a bad way to go through life. Beats religion, anyhow.

Sure enough, as Settee promised, a listen to Desert Opuses – the second release from the Winnipeg songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer under the High Watt Electrocutions moniker following 2007’s Night Songs – through even the dingiest of headphones proved that the tonal richness and layered density is best experienced at close range and ridiculous volume. The ringing guitars of “Slow March” that follow the distinctly Middle Eastern tones of “Ode to Snakecharming” feel like they could eat your head whole and launch you on some psychedelic journey into the rainbow colored belly of a giant lizard. Like a scene out of some acid cartoon. Like Queens of the Stone Age gone spiritual.

Desert Opuses delivers what the title offers, which might be its greatest accomplishment. Not being familiar with the landscape in Winnipeg, I’m assuming it’s not quite the same as Death Valley, but Settee (with a host of guests) harnesses a dune-climbing aesthetic that knows it’s best to travel by night. Layers of acoustic guitar, vocals, Moog and other noise shift in and out, producing a wash that is positively engulfing. Even on the instrumental “Obliteration,” which is one of Desert Opuses’ most down to earth moments, the vibe of moonlit psychedelia is palpable and one can dig a tunnel into the sound itself and come out somewhere different each time.

Of course, “Headphone Opus” is an appropriately rich listening experience that lends credibility to Settee’s liner notes suggestion and the feeling of just how well planned Desert Opuses was to begin with. A highlight of side B, Settee brings the bass up front and lets it ride shotgun for a big sky trip down the empty road ahead. Piano, keys, moaning vocals and more make it so that there’s so much life in the recording it’s hard to think of it as an homage to a place so desolate, but the affected musical ecosystem is nonetheless impeccably pulled off. The minor chords throughout keep a consistent exoticism and Middle Eastern spice in the sound, and even as “Tut Will Have His Revenge” launches into its noisy and chaotic finish, the overwhelming calmness is left unbothered. Settee fades into the riff-then-organ excursion “Evilution” and closes with three minutes of Moog and harmonica interplay on “Stripped Ruins.”

His pairing of elements gives Desert Opuses a fresh sound in an otherwise well-established genre, and while the album is mostly unconcerned with the traditional songwriting tactics to which much of desert rock strictly adheres, an engaging balance between high artistry and worldly tact is struck that remains unblemished no matter how far out Settee goes sonically. And to be fair, he goes pretty far out. Desert Opuses will have a sound too complex for some, but plenty of heads will find their minds willing to be expanded by its journeying tones and unfolding grandeur. Here’s to it." (JJ Koczan, StonerRock.com)

Track Listing:

01. Mountains of the Pharoahs
02. Ode to Snakecharming
03. Slow March
04. Light at the Speed of Sound
05. Obliteration
06. The Ruins of the Pyramids
07. Headphone Opus
08. Tut Will Have His Revenge
09. Evilution (Exclusive Track)
10. Stripped Ruins (Exclusive Track)

Official Website
Listen at Last.fm

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