Saturday, 14 September 2013

Dwellers – Good Morning Harikari

Anyone for some top pedigree stoner grunge from Salt Lake City?

Dwellers are something of a supergroup in the Utah dark rock scene. (OK, I'm not sure such a thing exists but for the sake of this review let's go with it.) Joey Toscana (guitar and vocals for heavy rock outfit Iota) has teamed up with the rhythm section of dark-folk band Subrosa to form Dwellers. Their debut album Good Morning Harikari was recorded eighteen months ago but is only now getting its release on Small Stone Records. Dwellers' sound has its roots in the classic power trio format, though they've mixed in the grunge rock of Soundgarden, Nirvana et al, then stretched it out into something more progressive and meditative.

It's very much a guitar player's album, with only six songs, (though two of those clock in at over the ten minute mark), characterised by lengthy guitar solos, pentatonic riffing, and heavy use of wah-wah. The minimal lyrics tend to feature in the first half of the songs, sometimes re-appearing to towards the end, with each track dominated by ominous crushing riffs, the longer tracks containing less dense second sections where some space is let in and the band stretch out and let the music find it's own dynamic, building up or releasing the tension as the stoned groove dictates.

Opening track “Secret Revival” typifies this approach with its grungy riffs and thundering bass giving way to a four minute breakdown. Closely followed by “Black Bird” which breaks away from their signature sound with its use of slide guitar. They save the best track till last though, at ten minutes long “Old Honey” is, for my ears, the best offering. Pretty much built around one chord, its mystic appeal enhanced by vibraphone and layered intertwining guitars playing eastern scales. It slowly builds and builds before the guitar solo milks the wah-wah pedal's battery for all it's worth.

A special mention also for the album's cover painting which depicts the trio calmly sitting around a table as if waiting to be served breakfast despite the fact that their intestines are all hanging out and draped onto the table and floor. Unsettling maybe but it's once seen, never forgotten and doesn't come across as an afterthought like a lot of modern day sleeve art.