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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday Sludge: StoneBirds / Stangala - "Kreiz-Breizh Sessions"

I couldn't be this alliterative if I tried. Seth's Sunday Sludge featuring a StoneBirds / Stangala split? Cosmic elements are aligning and perhaps this is the universe slapping me with the most insanely unique and enjoyable split presentation I'll ever hear. There's nothing standard or pedestrian about what we're showcasing today. One act a choppy, churning stoner-sludge trio from Lorient, the other an eerie haunt of bagpiped doom by way of Quimper, this formidable French tandem leaves nothing to be desired on The Infamous Kreiz-Breizh Sessions, Vol. 1. Take it all in.

StoneBirds swing first, knocking crunch-groove tastiness square into your chest with Red Is The Sky. A bluesy southern roll, hazy stoner-fuzz passages, gravelly vocals... Are we traipsing through Western France or scorching our skin on Oklahoma's dusty panhandle roads? No matter. Thick in tone with battered, battling dual vocals, this opening track is punchy and promising. StoneBirds strip off their moss-coated skin and earn their moment in the mist. As we lead into Game Over, we drift toward our teenage basement nods. Dense and dank, this supremely sticky, smoky sludge (and its tinny tinsel mood) pulls more than a few surprises from its beard. Gargle mud, cough, and slap on a heady half-smile... coming your way is a heavy hand of warbled licks and tense bong rips.

But if StoneBirds set the standard, Stangala do a bang-up job of following suit. Earlier this year, Reg warned you'll need to "hear for yourself to discover all of the nuances." No shit! On Kemper, groove-molded celtic-stoner-doom (what?) steamrolls your expectations. Chanted vocals and an elemental tapestry of fuzz is somehow enhanced with window-shopping keys and pipes. I found myself lifted to a rainy cobblestone tip-toe through Scottish highlands rather than lacing my coffee with bourbon in my dusty den. Conversely, the uptempo stoner-thrash havoc that is Konk Kerne recoils on sweet piss-puddle drums and Byzantine howls. They quickly melt into a returning grindcore violence, bizarre and cool all at once. Its unsettling, sure. But the sneering stoner guitar is again clouded by pipes, a long breakdown that'll linger in your ears and your mind.

Not that StoneBirds can't do some haunting. A cavernous wail drapes the murky Outro Drama spookfest. The vocal is chained and well-past offended. Swirling and growling at primitive pacing, this is an absolute lumber of slow-motion psychedelia that'll plow through mountains. The tense, paranoid Red Lights can't help but be stuffed into the stagnant-stoner-swamp-sludge category. Echoed and epic, pensive and cautionary... this tale cools with buzz and clouded warnings, perhaps against the loose bass and powered reverb of Dark Passenger. Moving from semi-thick to über-viscous in the span of seconds, this bouncing sludge is contemplative and high-strung. Bury yourself with the burn, even the chippy relent is wholly staggering.

StoneBirds' 2011 full-length Slow Fly

Perhaps there was no fistfight over top-billing, simply because Stangala know how to close out an album. Christ, the triptych of Ar Stang / Evel ar re yen / St Alar el les algues hallucinogènes is an impressively diverse yet cohesive exercise in balancing departures with throwbacks. The fuzz metal absorbing directly into your skull on Ar Stang is more uptempo than you'd expect from French doom. Dense, tight, and loaded with plucks and plods, this cruiser is true to roots. The desert-rolled Kyuss influence is maximized by the massive drums on Evel, cloaked to counter the sandy slaps. As riffage buzzes and burns, screams command your ear. Laser keys, bulging rhythms, samples, sagging-tit pipes... All the elements seemingly pit this track at war with itself as it deconstructs into a spiral of spook. And finally, ominous at its closing and ear-rung at its heart is the flattening St Alar. The rumble of stoner-doom cadence and distant pinches of solid, steady bass thumbs keep this fuzz-pipe blast smoothly executed and softer than your grandma's panties. But more than the subtle sniffs, you'll love the long, heady passages punctuated by spurts of psychedelic doom.

Stangala's 2011 release Boued Tousek Hag Traou Mat All

Sludge led us here. These Sunday morning jaunts casually open with murk and mire, but rarely are they led toward such an eclectic meld of... Uh, I don't even know what to call this split. These Kreiz-Breizh sessions must've been fun to record; shit, they were fun to hear. You came for the boggy thickness. You stuck around for the stoner sensibilities. Perhaps you dipped your wick in embalming fluid before sparking up some doobage. Either way, you've been led down one trippy hill only to climb right up another. Whether these bands splinter their subsequent releases or return for Vol. 2, we'll be waiting.

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