By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Italian psychedelic doom merchants Ufomammut have been refining their unique style of mind-altering heaviness since first coming together over a decade ago. Made up of guitarist Poia, bassist Urlo and drummer Vita, the trio has explored its mix of droning riffs inspired by metal mavericks like Melvins and Boris with the echo-drenched, effects-heavy space rock of Pink Floyd and Hawkwind over the course of ten albums.
After making contributions to a number of compilations (most notably a stunning version of “Piece of Mind” for the 1999 Blue Cheer tribute Blue Explosion), the band issued its first full album Godlike Snake for the Beard of Stars imprint in 2000. The collection of head-nodding, down-tuned guitar workouts laced with heavily processed vocals and shimmering synthesizers revealed the singular and deliberate path the group would follow on its early releases.
While the band had already delved into extended songs on its debut, Ufomammut would dig deeper into the concept starting with the epic 27-minute track “Void/Elephantom” from the 2008 effort Idolum that slowly built from an echoing guitar figure to a massive lumbering riff that eventually dissolves into an extended synth drone. The idea was taken even further on Eve, essentially an atmospheric hour-long song broken up into five movements. In 2009, the band brought a brief West Coast tour to San Francisco, taking to the road with longtime collaborators Malleus, the rock art collective that makes album art and live video projections for the group in addition to concert posters.
In 2012, Ufomammut signed to like-minded metal experimentalists Neurosis’ Neurot Recordings label for the creation of the band’s most ambitious release yet. Split into two separate discs, ORO: Opus Primum and ORO: Opus Alter were both filled with disembodied voices and repetitive, minimalist riffs that pull the listener inexorably into a sonic vortex. Malleus also crafted full album-length video collages to provide an equally mesmerizing visual accompaniment for the two stunning records.
On the band’s 2015 Neurot Recordings album Ecate, Ufomammut delivered another stellar collection of songs that match crushing heaviness to ethereal ambient sounds. Its most recent effort for the label, last year’s monolithic sludge feat 8 provided an even heavier dose of the group’s crushing sonic chemistry. The trio has scheduled its current U.S. tour (only its second trip through the States ever) around anticipated appearances at the Maryland Deathfest, Northwest Terror Fest and the eclectic Sled Island Festival in Calgary. Despite bassist Urlo being injured in a near fatal motorcycle accident prior to arriving in the States, the musician decided to postpone planned surgery to his knee so the band would be able to tour as scheduled.
Partnering on this tour are the Brooklyn-based psych cosmonauts of White Hills. Over the past 13 years of making music, the band has established a reputation as one of America’s foremost proponents of fuzz-driven space rock. Founded in 2005 by guitarist, principal songwriter, and onetime S.F. resident David W, the group has released an avalanche of albums and EPs mixing juggernaut riffage and pulsing Krautrock dronescapes.
With sole other constant in the band Ego Sensation on bass, White Hills earned notoriety with its synapse-frying live performances featuring heavy visuals, strobe lights and thick fog as well a prolific output of recordings that eventually scored the group a deal with Thrill Jockey records (though they have continued to release a steady stream of albums and EPs for other labels). Efforts like 2007’s Heads on Fire, the band’s self-titled Thrill Jockey debut and H-p1 expand on the legacies of Hawkwind, Can and early Tangerine Dream with their deep-space epics.
On the group’s most recent effort, last year’s Stop Mute Defeat, the band teamed with previous collaborator and veteranNYC engineer/producer Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth, Afrika Bambaataa, Swans, Bill Laswell) and explored a different approach, looping and sampling their instruments and utilizing a drum machine to craft a sound that nods to the no-wave movement and the electro punk of Suicide. Ufomammut and White Hills bring their tour to the Bay Area for two shows. At the Elbo Room on Tuesday, the two bands are joined by San Francisco outfit Apprentice Destroyer, a hypnotic krautrock-influenced solo project from black metal musician Steve Peacock (Pale Chalice, Mastery, Pandiscordian Necrogenesis), while Wednesday’s show at the Catalyst Atrium features Death Moon opening
Ufomammut and White Hills
Tuesday, June 5, 8:30 p.m. $13-$15
Wednesday, June 6, 8:30 p.m. $10-$13