Sal Klita Blogger | Muzik impressions

Sal Klita Blogger

Tuesday, May 13

Ulaan Khol...My new addiction

For many, just knowing this is a brand new Steven R. Smith (Mirza, Thuja, Hala Strana) project will be enough to send them running to their nearest source to spend some hard earned cash on this recording. The good news is they won’t be at all disappointed. And for everyone else, for whom Smith is either an unknown or someone of interest until now, this incredible CD ought to be mandatory listening. From the beautifully crackling opening notes, it’s clear this is unabashedly a guitar record. And not just any guitar record, but a heavy and blissful psych guitar record. Smith is at one with his guitar, painting strange aural landscapes, strangling warbly melodies, and building each component into a masterful whole. As soon as the first track fades out with gently echoing percussion, the second blasts in and announces this as Smith’s most purely rock offering in ages. A full on power trio track, its heaviness is a delight, and easily rivals any of the best instrumental guitar rock of the last two decades. The remaining seven tracks dispense with the drums for the most part, and so there’s a sense that after climbing the peak of the second track, the rest is an exploratory and leisurely walk down the mountain. Subtle organ washes appear, and much of the record has a nice drone underlying it. Yet the consistent thread is clearly Smith’s guitar, and even in the quieter more meditative moments, his blazingly fuzzed out and impassioned playing is ever present.

Listen 1

The lack of ego on display, consistent with Smith’s aesthetic, is once again incredibly refreshing. The record’s allegiances fall squarely within his usual purview of folk, drone, and rock, but it stands out as a paean to the guitar in all its expansive, psychedelic glory. “Heave the Gambrel Roof”, Smith’s latest Hala Strana offering was an absolute beauty of a different sort, and must have been difficult to top. This one does it with a flick of the wrist, as if he were just putting in another day on the job. But despite suggestions of a workman-like approach, there is a sheer joy in this music that will be apparent to anyone who samples its treasures. And the best part of all? Smith has conceptualized this particular project as a trilogy with part II to drop in the Fall. I have no doubt this will loom large on many year end lists for 2008, and it’s plain to see why.

By Foxy Digitalis

Throughout his career as a solo artist, and through membership with the celebrated ensembles Thuja and Mirza, Steven R. Smith has had a hand in creating some of the most compelling and singular instrumental psychedelic music of the past ten years. Smith's latest project, Ulaan Khol, moves beyond the Eastern European-inspired sources and scales employed by his work as Hala Strana towards an approach alternately true to his personal musical lineage and in a realm beyond any pre-existing work. As Ulaan Khol, Smith digs in deep with a palette of drums/guitar/organ to craft a monolithic & expansive free form, feedback-heavy atmospheric din that bonds the disparate realms of Fushitsusha and High Rise with Popul Vuh and Flying Saucer Attack.

As Ulaan Khol, Smith has planned a maximalist three-part suite, 'Ceremony.' In the first installment of the trilogy, I, the tone is overwhelming bleak as the pieces (all untitled) caterwaul, moan and crumble. Dripping with basement doom, Ulaan Khol's cosmic histrionics emanate with the raw essence of White Light/White Heat jettisoned by Harmonia's amorphous drifts.

By The Lable

Listen 2