If I’d have known that Volcano Kings were going to release three more EPs after what they already released earlier this year, I would have rationed my hyperbolic praise for them to span the next review. I don’t know much about them, and though they label themselves as a group that makes soundtracks (among many other descriptors), I have a hunch that none of these have a visual counterpart, though it certainly invites your mind to create one. I don’t know if this sudden burst of material is an uncorking of years of work or whether they’ve been locking themselves in a room and cranking out astonishingly polished material. Whatever the case, they deserve more attention than they get.
Though the surf element is certainly identifiable (moreso in older material), this is not crash & burn Dick Dale material, and it often takes more overt influence from the artists that surround surf such as John Barry (who they cover). The most readily surf-friendly is the Midnight on Switchblade Street EP which is a companion to the recently released Crime Jazz and Film Noir (Volume 1). Much like that album their sound is thick with activity and atmosphere, mixing strong but dark-tempered brass with overactive percussion and moments of sci-fi guitarwork. The “Beat Girl” cover is a frenzied take that feels like they threw everything at it. They start to get wackier towards the end, with an almost Elfman-like version of “Big Noise from Winnetka” and ending in the off-the-rails “Bastard on Wheels” which smashes Man or Astro-Man’s sciencey sounds into an action-movie sense of orchestral momentum. The result is messy and strange and something to behold.
The Wasteland EP slows it down considerably, adopting a more mournful sound. In fact, the title compares favorably to Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Grails with a lil’ bit more reverb on the guitar, perhaps a hint of Morricone influence. The next track is a bit warmer, reminding me of Friends of Dean Martinez. Then it rounds out with a much more overt Morricone-alike.
Lastly there’s one under the moniker of Doom Ponies of Ipanema, which is more similar to the Wasteland EP. It’s moody, slow, and ominous, though the title track builds to a such a dramatic and atmospheric crescendo.
It really is amazing how well-crafted these are and how vivid of a picture they paint. Credits from older albums and one or two youtube videos suggest that this is a pretty small ensemble, but it comes together layered enough to evoke an orchestra rather than a mixture of individual parts. They deserve a bigger audience than a surf niche. Somebody needs to get these guys to actually score something (and despite my frequent cinema-themed vocabulary, I think they could do wonders with a video game).
Listen to everything they’ve done. You can download it for free, but that’s ridiculous.