Friday, 7 June 2013

Ape Skull - ST (album review)

Cover artwork by "Rise Above".
Ape Skull are a power trio out of Rome, Italy and like my buddy The Doomentor of The Sludgelord blog says in his understated way, "they've got some groove".  Indeed they do have groove aplenty with a distinctive sixties twist.  The band has been signed up by Heavy Psych Sounds for their debut album.  The band was a great find, but an even better fit as Ape Skull really straddle that line between heavy and psych.  Deep Purple, Leaf Hound and a host of more obscure influences such as John DuCann's various bands (The Attack, Andromeda, Atomic Rooster, et al.) come spilling out from every seam of this record.  For someone like myself who spent the better part of five years drinking in the late sixties British psych sounds and the bizarre world of early seventies heavy prog but has since re-discovered the love of new sounds, Ape Skull is a perfect fit.

Late-era Beatles collide with early Bad Company on "Time and Wind", a wistful midtempo rocker, the kind that's not often found on 'retro' type albums.  Nor are vocals usually soulful enough to truly create an old school impression.  Perhaps the Black Crowes is a better comparison here, but it hardly matters.  'Ape Skull' is as original an album one can get from a retro act such as this.  They are a distinctive band within the sub-genre and they do so by emphasizing the kinds of elements that the bands from the original era in question would have emphasized rather than focusing on a 'revisionist history' kind of retro rock that most undergrounds engage in, with raunch over beauty and relentless fuzzed out heaviness over balladry and artistry.  I'm not saying the way those other bands do it is the wrong way or a bad thing.  I'm just saying that Ape Skull do things differently.  It's an original sound in the strictest definition of the word.  It's hard to argue with either approach and hard to go wrong when the inspiration is so potent.

Opening pair, "Lazy" and "So Deep" are not only a blast from the past, they undulate and swerve with soulful funk groove and undeniable riffs.  Taken together, it's as solid an opening combo as one can find on any dusty old LP in the window of any "head shop", setting the bar high for the album to follow in the wake of their strutting momentum.

"I Got No Time" is a cover of an incredibly obscure British psychedelic band that were active for a short period during the late sixties / early seventies.  They managed to record and release but one single in 1970 for the tiny Reflection label.  The song in question can be found on the 'We Can Fly vol. 5' compilation, which is up on itunes.  I got it as part of a 5-CD box set which didn't really cost me an arm and a leg, and it had some stuff that I was desperate to have in my collection, even though it did contain a lot of "doubles" that I already had on other comps and albums (sorry, must wipe the drool away and move on ...).  Anyway, the cover is Faithful with a capital 'F' and yet doesn't sound out of place on this record.  In fact, if one didn't know better, you'd think it was an original.  Such is the band's ability to pen seventies style tunes in a naturalistic setting.  Certainly much of the credit must go to Giovanni Illuminati who recorded, mixed and mastered the first four tracks at Trafalgar Studios in Rome and to Gabriele Fiori who recorded the rest of this gem of an album at Channel 5 studio in Rome and to Pino Santamaria who mixed and mastered it at JD studio (also in Rome).  I've never mentioned a recording, mixing, mastering team before by name on the blog, so there you go.  You do a great job, you get singled out for praise.

This is a side track here, but ... Funny enough, I've just done a review of another Italian psychedelic band for Temple of Perdition blog, a band I've featured here in the recent past by the name of Tangerine Stoned.  Do you remember?  Anyway, these two bands only really have two things in common, one being that they are both Italian, but the other of those two things is absolutely remarkable and is something one wouldn't expect to find twice in one lifetime let alone in a single week.  And that is, they are both absolutely, genuinely cut from the cloth of their rather unique influences without sounding like direct carbon copies.  Each of these two bands would have sounded absolutely fresh during the late sixties, Tangerine Stoned in the San Francisco sound of the day, Ape Skull at a hip club in Swinging London.  Bury these records in a misc. 60s bin at a record shop and no one would be able to tell that they aren't re-issues of "lost classics".  Thankfully we've got dorks like me around to ensure that this classic doesn't get "lost".

If you dig hard on the sixties and/or seventies sounds, as I suspect most of you out there do, then I'm positive you'll love this album.  Be sure to preview the songs via the links provided in the tracklist, you won't regret it.

Highlights include: "So Deep" and "Now I Get You"

Rating: 4.5/5

1). Lazy (3:58)
2). So Deep (5:27)
3). Time and Wind (6:11)
4). Make Me Free (4:13)
5). I Got No Time (4:39)
6). Bluesy (5:50)
7). Hookah (5:58)
8). Now I Get You (3:39)
9). Take Me Back (5:09)
Total Run Time: 45:02

Giuliano Padroni - Drums & Vocals
Fulvio Cartacci - Guitar
Pierpaolo Pastorelli - Bass

From: Rome, Italy

Genre: Psychedelic, Rock

Reminds me of: Andromeda, The Attack, Bad Company, The Beatles, Bubble Puppy, Deep Purple, Jerusalem, John Entwistle, Josefus, Leaf Hound, ZZ Top, man the list could go on but don't get the wrong impression, these cats are unique in today's day and age ...

Release Date: April, 2013

Better Reviews:
The Soda Shop

Ape Skull facebook

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