The Stranger: Album Review: Sandrider – “s/t”

Russian Circles bassist and Stranger scribe Brian Cook had some very nice things to say about Sandrider’s debut record. Stoked!

Good To Die Records

I’ve toyed with the idea of skipping a Best Albums of 2011 list this year and going with a Best Riffs list instead. I’ve already started compiling some contenders—the mathy breakdown at 2:24 on Mercy Ties’ “Cave”, the central Entombed-style guitar line on Rotten Sound’s “Choose”, the opening fuzz riff on Helms Alee’s “8/16”, the inexplicable palm muted chug that keeps changing tempos at 2:23 on Craft’s “I Want To Commit Murder”, and that moment of genius at 2:37 on Adebisi Shank’s “Micromachines” where they drop into halftime while the guitar loop churns at double speed. But then a record like Sandrider’s debut 12” comes along and gums up the whole plan. The seven songs on the record are all total riff-fests. Picking just one isolated moment off the album would be damn near impossible.

Not that this should come as much of a surprise. Sandrider is comprised of Nat Damm and Jon Weisnewski, best known as 2/3 of Akimbo, a band whose slogan is “eat beer, shit riffs.” Add bassist Jesse Roberts of the syncopation-punks The Ruby Doe and the bottom-heavy hooks are inevitable. Perhaps the only surprising thing about the Sandrider album is that it took so long for these seven songs to see a proper release. Though recorded by Matt Bayles (Mastodon, ISIS, Blood Brothers) back in April 2009, the band’s side-project status and intermittent show schedule apparently made pressing the album a low priority
. Fortunately, new Seattle label Good To Die Records swooped in to make the self-titled record one of its first releases. And good thing too—it would be a shame for so many mean riffs to go to waste.

Let’s do a quick inventory. “Children” kicks off the album with an orgy of big chords and kick-and-crash drumbeats straight out of the Karp textbook. It’s this kind of massive open-power-chord stomp that characterizes the bulk of the album. “The Corpse” mixes up the attack plan by opening with some serpentine single-coil John Reis-style guitar licks before getting back to the overdriven bash at 1:15. The two riffs intermingle throughout the course of the song until fusing into one blown-out monster at 3:53. The third track, “Crysknife”, is pretty much one five-and-a-half-minute-long steamroller, but get to the 4:55 mark and you’ve got yet another contender for the Best Of list when the trio launch into a polyrhythmic beatdown. “Paper” uses the same tactic at “The Corpse” by mixing single-string riffs with thunderous chord progressions at the 2:23 mark. Then there’s the moment on “Scatter” at 2:05 where the initial note progression—already pretty fierce in its own right—gets beefed up with a dose of distortion.

All in all, Sandrider’s debut is a relentless 40-minute ride. And while I’m still toying with the Best Riffs idea—someone’s gotta celebrate the throbbing scuzz of Part Chimp’s “Dr. Horse”—I don’t like the idea of having to pick out the pinnacle of Sandrider’s album.


These online publications also posted positive reviews this week!


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