Review: Qstaw ‘Project 86’

Learning of a new band to obsess over is always fun and playing the songs on repeat without ever getting tired of hearing them is what this is all about. Not too long ago that was Tungsint for me and still, their debut EP can be heard playing in my house, car, and work. What’s even more exciting is when you discover a member of your newly obsessed band has other bands and side projects to further explore. Enter Qstaw, where Jocke Norgren (Tungsint drummer) can be found pounding out some epic beats on the new EP which will be released on March 24th.

Qstaw 'Project 86'

Qstaw is the mastermind of Olli Wikstrom (guitars, synth, noise, mixing, and mastering) who reigns from Kokkola, Finland. Wait a minute, that town sounds really familiar!? Yes! That is where Jon from Gangrened is from, another band I can’t get enough of. It seems I was meant to listen to this band even though I typically don’t find myself listening to ‘experimental, drone and noise.’ Generally, the music I listen to has a lot of melody and groove (I guess), Qstaw however may have forever changed that in me. Project 86 is their new EP, and it is filled with a variety of sounds and noises. I think what really makes it all perfect is Norgren’s incredible drums that hold down a beat while the fantastic soundscapes from Wikstrom weave in and out faultlessly.

Project 86 consists of five, long playing, songs. The first, entitled 86,32512 clocks in at 14:30 and begins with bells and some high-pitched noises that are intriguing. Shortly after, the groovy drumbeat enters. Everything falls into place perfectly and you can’t help but move to the beat. The high-pitched noises begin to create a melody and the wall of sound fills everything out. The drums slowly die out and the evolution of the song begins. Chaotic noise ensues and alters over the next four minutes. Now, I know I said I felt Norgren’s drums hold this together and I do believe that, but at four minutes, the drums become chaotic but are equally incredible. I got some strong Harrbada vibes from the outstanding Gangrened as well. The mixture of sounds are exquisitely timed and Wikstrom has inspired me to look more into noises to fill some songs that have been lacking space. The song closes with a smoother drum beat with the layered textures creating an ambient atmosphere where you can feel the calmness.

86,41601 is the next song up coming in at 16:30. Starting off with an uncomfortable cringe worthy tension. This tension continues to build over the next four minutes, which may seem long but passes rather quickly in anticipation of what’s to come. I expected some explosive end, but Qstaw take it in the opposite direction with a soothing middle that reminds me of a slowed-down version of Electric Relaxtion by A Tribe Called Quest (I never thought I’d compare anything on The Sleeping Shaman to them but there you go). Wikstrom starts strumming some epic-sounding fuzzed-out chords that sit just right in the mix. I definitely notice the guitar more on this track and thoroughly enjoyed every note, chord, and tone being played. Norgren keeps the beat going with faultless sounding drums and, out of all the songs, this may very well be my favorite.

it’s easy to get lost in the mind-bending soundscapes Qstaw have created…

86,5 is next up, compared to what’s got before, its name is shortened, and I will admit, the song titles are a puzzle I’m still trying to crack. It has a gradual crescendo building throughout and leads to a promising chaotic conclusion. All these songs have this effect, but I had a stressful day at work and as 86,5 was playing through the speakers, it took me away from the garbage at work and instantly made the day better. In my ‘professional’ opinion, when having a shit day put on some Qstaw and turn it around.

I originally wrote this review when only three songs were going to be released. I mentioned how I enjoyed them and hoped more songs titled 86 were on their way. Well, my wish came true as before the review was even submitted 86,6134131 and 86,7 were waiting in my inbox the next morning! Each song continues the feel laid down by the previous three tracks and it’s a no brainer why they were included on this album. 86,6134131 has the longest title to this puzzle of titles I’m going to solve (probably not before the review is published) and clocks in at just over fourteen minutes. The drone effects with a groovy drumbeat continue in the same fashion but the addition of radio chatter type vocals is pretty cool. I love the use of feedback as well to create some really awesome sounds.

86,7 starts off with a cool guitar riff and the echoing distortion is fantastic. I love making sounds like that at home and the drumbeat is my favorite of Norgren’s. It’s extremely catchy and meshes so well with Wikstrom’s creative use of sounds. I absolutely love the guitar on this as well. It gets very heavy at times and the bottom end could shatter some windows if not played with caution. I’m glad they included this song because I believe it’s now become my personal favorite.

Qstaw are not done yet however. Norgren was part of an additional track that was supposed to be on Project 86 but turned into a single of its own called Long Road To Nowhere. There are some definite post-rock vibes with the clean delay chords ringing out quietly behind the feedback but can still be heard. Its deliberate long and drawn-out notes are powerful. I feel this would have been a great soundtrack in the new Matrix movie. The power of the ringing chords vibrating the seats in the theatre and its surroundings would have been epic. The added drum loops which lack bass (but is surely filled by the music), create sounds reminiscent of 3teeth in a way. All I know is this song would have made the new Matrix worth watching.

Qstaw isn’t for the average listener and sad to say won’t be hitting billboards Top 100. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the music; I’m saying I’ve lost faith in humankind to take more than three seconds to listen to a song before judging. You have to truly love music to enjoy what’s going on here, there are so many elements they bring to the table and it’s easy to get lost in the mind-bending soundscapes Qstaw have created.

Label: Clouded Mind Records
Band Links: Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Josh Schneider