Saturday, April 9, 2011

EP Shakedown: Heavy Ripples, Vol. 1

I'm usually reluctant to listen and review compilation albums/EPs, because of the usual clash of styles and overall skill of the bands featured. It's the only place where you can hear stoner rock sat next to NWOAHM and atmospheric doom. It's just a little too sketchy for a real review... usually.

For the first compilation EP released by Ripple Music, aptly titled Heavy Ripples, Vol. 1, the guys have collected some amazing acts of the stoner persuasion. The album begins within the blues side of the sub-genre, then takes small sonic steps throughout the rest of the album, through excellent song selection, moving towards rock 'n roll and a dash of punk. Normally this shift would have bothered me, but the fellas at Ripple have done a superb job making it all from amazingly.

Stone Axe is at it again, with their real chill, more-blues-then-rock sound. This time turning the Mos Generator song, "Nightwolf," into what seems like a blues standard, something that I wouldn't think possible. This excellent effort is followed by Sun Gods In Exile, a group not on the Ripple Music label - originally from Small Stone - but nice enough to let their music be included (I'm sure the added press doesn't hurt either). Their song, "Over My Broken Body," isn't as blues-oriented as Stone Axe's work, but you can hear the correlation between the pair.

After the slight step away from the blues, we are introduced to the first of two songs by Grifter, "Small Man Syndrome" which strikes me a bit as mid-era Clutch (somewhere between The Elephant Riders and Blast Tyrant), and "Hey Ron" which is way more groovy and rock 'n roll then it's predecessor - definitely one of my favorites of the EP. This song is a good entrance for the almost punk rock stoner song "Hempaphobic" by The Mighty High. This song is probably my least favorite and what is see as a weak point on an almost flawless album. It just doesn't seem as put together as the rest of it. Although I've never heard any of The Mighty High's music before, so this might be how they always sound.

What pulls Heavy Ripples is its link of the bands on it. The EP begins very bluesy but over the whole album, it takes baby-steps away from it, moving into the more straight-forward rock-oriented music. It's a slow enough pace that the listener might not even notice it. It's not a jarring effect or sound, something off-putting that would pull you from the release as a whole, it lets it all grow and evolve in the mind. I know if you put Stone Axe directly next to The Mighty High, I would have been shocked. But with the three-song stepping-stone, it wasn't that much of a shocker.

I think the point of these mixes/compilations like is for the bands to acquire new listeners and fans, hopefully by relating to one or more of the acts that are also included. It worked this way for me; I knew and liked Stone Axe, but had never heard of Sun Gods In Exile and was just barely aware of the existence of the bands Grifter and The Mighty High. Now I am aware, I am in love, and I will be hearing more (you can get Grifter's EPs free from their BandCamp page BTW).

Those guys at Ripple Music know their shit; they represent amazing bands and have the connections to help countless others. Their first (I hope) compilation EP, Heavy Ripples, Vol. 1, is a perfect example of what it is to make a classic mix tape (or EP in this case). The bands are all closely linked as to not alienate the listener, but varied enough to give the release some life, a combination that is not always easy to pull off.

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