Like I said when I reviewed Chapter 3 of this compilation, Ripple Music has become somewhat of a tastemaker in the stoner-rock scene, a modern-day Man’s Ruin or MeteorCity, if you will. And they’ve only built on that reputation in the past couple years, signing the likes of Wo Fat and Devil to Pay and launching the careers of Sweat Lodge and Mothership. So, at the risk of sounding like a cracked piece of vinyl, when something has the Ripple logo on it, I’m likely to give’r a listen—even though I don’t really know either of these bands.
Red Mesa occupies Side A, and if its moniker conjures visions of desert landscapes, this New Mexican trio doesn’t disappoint. “Cactus Highway” kicks off with a rugged, mid-paced groove, more Kyuss than Fu Manchu, and comes complete with a pretty anthemic chorus. “Low and Slow” serves it up just like the man said, a pretty decent head-nodder with some heavy, Sabbath-style breakdowns. “Goin’ to the Desert” stretches things out to seven minutes, with shades of Monster Magnet’s jangly space rock circa Superjudge. Around the 1:30 mark, the riffs give way to the sound of thunder and lightning, before a sparse, airy, vocal-driven verse reverberates across the plain. From there it’s straight into Kyuss territory down the back half, a mellow, laid-back desert groove backing vocals that are still more Wyndorf than Garcia.
The almost-as-lengthy “Utopia” begins with a nod to Spinal Tap’s “Jazz Odyssey” before an anguished vocal begets some Sabbathian riffage. Tis but an interlude, mind you, before we’re brought back to the mellow, jazzy sounds again. After the heavy riffs make their second appearance, we then get a mellow, shimmery passage more akin to Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” albeit with slightly more distortion, before taking us home with the same Sabbathian flourish. An interesting note to go out on, that’s for sure…
Going by their name, Michigan’s Blue Snaggletooth sounds more like a Cro-Magnon, knuckle-dragging garage-rock outfit…but that’s not the case at all. Instead we get more desert-inspired tunes, albeit with a pretty heavy Lowrider/Truckfighters influence. “Sand Witch,” their first track, wouldn’t sound outta place on one of those old MeteorCity splits from back in the day, laying down the stoner-rock riffage (for eight-and-a-half minutes) like it’s 1999. “Crystal’s Gaze” kicks out the wah right from the get-go, before giving way to some pulsating stop-start riffs. After a wah-laden interlude, we get a pretty solid chorus, served up nice and slow. The nasal vocals are a little hard to understand, so you’ll just hafta nod yer head instead of signing along.
Final track “Mystic Waters” is a solid, mid-paced blues-rocker with shades of Wo Fat and ZZ Top. You’d never know they’re 1,338 miles from Texas!