BAND OF THE WEEK: OLD BABY

21 May

New Music” is the name of the new album containing the new music from the band named Old Baby – except that the music of Old Baby hardly lends itself to being contained. “New Music” is expansive and unbound, certainly unchained from concerns of genre, and probably from the constraints of time and space as well.

 photo 0F4555AF-7A33-46AC-8040-DC78E9E7434A_zpsxtxzumuo.jpg

Perhaps it’s too early to say whether “New Music” stands the test of time, let alone being free from its limitations. As of this writing, it’s been just two days since Old Baby released “New Music,” though we’ve been listening intently for the span of those two days and, early or not, we’re comfortable declaring “New Music” as among the best new music you could possibly hear.

Part of our judgment is surely colored by the enduring nature of the old music released by Old Baby, in the form of their equally spectacular previous album, “Love Hangover.” But the lion’s share of our lionizing of Old Baby’s new music has to derive from “New Music” proper – an album that suffers from no lack of depth, no lack of sincerity, no lack of ooh’s and aah’s.

The Old Baby sound is, by one way of thinking, as counter-intuitive as the band’s name. Using well-worn, earth-bound tools (guitars, drums, the afore-mentioned ooh’s and aah’s), Old Baby is able to craft something entirely new. Or something not old. Or something timeless.

“New Music” doesn’t get any more timeless than its start. The album begins with “Someday,” a song warning of the day that’s coming, that’s already here, about the opportunity to enter the void and release the grasp. The words are simple, but not easy, and the music takes a similar form – hypnotic, simple, powerful and, if we may be so bold/naive, imbued with a higher purpose.

And if it’s new a “higher” purpose, let’s at least recognize the music of Old Baby seems to be driven by a purpose, even if that purpose is to fully explore what is driving the music.

It’s the exploration we hear in “Hovering Toll,” towering in its Chrome-like heaviness and Killing Joke-level weirdness. It’s what we hear in “Take Heed,” a droning dedication to the endless fall toward the abyss, or “Me Dying,” where the band threatens to drown “in a sea of unsung sound,” while the listener is bathed is cosmically-chil vibraphone accents. And it’s what we hear on “Visions,” in its search for a voice that remains unspoken, setting the stage for intergalactic inner-exploration over shrieking guitar weirdness and a slow-mo, way-out “War Pigs” shuffle, appropriately preceding the finale of “Coming Down,” floating way, way out in the stars and making its case for being the “Dark Star” of the expanding Old Baby catalog.

Keep expanding. Old Baby. “New Music.” Highest possible recommendation.

You can get Old Baby’s “New Music” at their Bandcamp page at a very, very, very reasonable price.

“When we’re in tune with our inner wealth—the qualities of compassion, contentment, patience, and so on—it’s endless, it’s timeless. Those are the qualities that we’re born with. Everybody. The whole process of meditation is all about trying to dig into this inner wealth, to access it.” – Trinley Thaye Dorje

 

 

BAND OF THE WEEK: SWAHILI

14 May

The reality is simply this: The new album from Swahili, Portland’s premier colonists of cosmic circuitry, is called “AMOVREVX.” It opens with an eleven and-one-half minute piece of perfection entitled “Bardo.” It also comes with two custom tarot cards. Given this, there’s really no way that can recommend this album more highly.

 photo F34C3EA8-E205-4DE4-A900-A4AAEDB8864B_zps9eaf6ezh.jpg

Of course, there’s much more that we could say about the sounds of “AMOVREVX,” and much, much, much more that Swahili says with said sounds. We could note the space between “AMOVREVX” and Swahili’s previous full-length, their self-titled debut (an album that led directly to our initial cross-examination of all things Swahili, nearly four years ago). We could note that Swahili seems not to have abandoned the wild abandon with which they once approached their music, but rather seem to have graduated to an exponentially more panoramic perspective, manifested fully on “AMOVREVX.” We could note that, in this way, Swahili are exploring ground that could be seen as tangentially related to the kind territory Jane Weaver covers on another one of our favorite albums of recent history, “The Silver Chord” – inspiring, illuminating and poetic, strange and beautiful. We could note that – without question – never before have we felt compelled to dance and sing along to the words, “It’s giving life to darkness / It’s Aristophanes.”

But sing and dance we did.

We could note all of this and more. And in a sense, we have. But none of this even gets close to capturing the inquiring, imaginative nature of Swahili’s “AMOVREVX,” an album that quite literally pulses with a macro-and-microscopic sonic circulatory system all its own. “AMOVREVX” is an album of uncanny skill and depth, connected to everything, all sounds, yet subjugated to none of them. It rejects convenience, it rejects laziness, it exalts in change.

In the greatest of all possible ways, the music of Swahili gives us pause – a pause to experience something in a new way, through a new expression, unbound by expectation, a musical medicine to free us of our stale, fixed ideas and open us up to profound truths with infinite implications. Infinite implications that you can dance to.

“AMOVREVX” by Swahili is available now from Translinguistic Other Records.

“Perhaps this is the great imperative of our present time. Through practice we can discover how to allow the mind to find its natural equality. When mind ceases to create divisions and boundaries, then the world is without divisions and boundaries. Going further, we see that practice has not changed the nature of this world one inch. It doesn’t help make highs and lows equal; it shows us their basic equality, which has been present all along. Realizing this, we can appreciate and enjoy the tall mountain as tall, and the low mountain as low.” – Geoffrey Shugen Arnold Sensei

 photo 70D90A47-4EA8-4D68-89D4-25D351CB6F3E_zpsptbtli8d.jpg

BAND OF THE WEEK: WHITE MANNA

6 May

We can hardly even speak the name “White Manna” without the words expanding and disintegrating into the vast, unending echo of space, our eyes pin-wheeling in unbalanced wonder, our ears the valiant veterans of the endlessly amplified assault of this cosmic, California-centric caravan.

 photo 5407BED9-226B-4673-B00D-094EE956A522_zpsenyvoyqm.jpg

What we’re saying is we love White Manna, and news of their latest album is always news that we’re pleased to hear. The soon-to-be-released “Pan” is no exception, nor is it an exception to the growing, exceptional, spine-throttling recorded legacy of White Manna.

In the previous lives of this ridiculous website, we’ve praised and investigated the output of White Manna again and again. If “Pan” isn’t White Manna’s finest work (and to these ears, it’s absolutely nothing less) than we can at least assert it to be the album that best crystallizes the band’s kaleidoscopic vision, the foremost purveyors of soil-stained space rock, its roots and branches expanding in ten-thousand directions.

Look no further than the lethal, lead-foot lunacy that make up the fourteen combined minutes of “Dune I” and Dune II” (an echo of the band’s previous “Dune Worship”) for proof of White Manna’s clarity of vision. There’s something about the consistency of White Manna’s recorded output that strikes us not as stagnation but as a resolve to its path, as an indication of its faith and determination.

The White Manna end game, as it were, if it were, would appear to be propelled by the twin engines of amplification and liberation, and more pointedly, the space where there is no difference between the two. Highest possible recommendation.

“Pan” is available from Captcha Records and Cardinal Fuzz Records. Buy everything on both labels.

“Alive or dead, roots function dynamically in the soil community, where the number of soil organisms in the rhizosphere of living roots is 100 times greater than in soil uninhabited by roots. Decomposing roots also provide massive amounts of organic matter to sustain the micro flora and fauna of every garden, for in one cup of fertile, root-cultured soil there are more microorganisms than there are human beings on planet earth. Gardening and meditation practice is radical work, rooted in the invisible and summoning each practitioner to ‘see for yourself.’ As you take up your work, leave your roots on, just to make clear where you come from.” – Wendy Johnson

BAND OF THE WEEK: GIRMA YIFRASHEWA

30 Apr

We’re more than a little hyperbolic when it comes to music. On average, we declare about three albums per week as the “best thing we’ve ever heard in our life.” Now, it’s time to add Girma Yifrashewa’s transcendent and beautiful album, “Love and Peace” to that long and growing list.

 photo 87EB06CA-171F-4CE1-8C6A-E610DDA1A8D8_zpsc84gvckq.jpg

This is an astounding album – mind-bending, lucid and profound. Trying to describe this album is a bit like trying to describe a sound as natural and beautiful as the birds singing. Perhaps better to just listen.

At the risk of saying nothing about “Love and Peace,” we simply don’t have the words to describe “Love and Peace,” which may be appropriate considering there are no words on “Love and Peace.” It’s simply, magnificently and eternally one guy nameed Girma from Ethiopia playing the piano, and it’s the best thing we’ve ever heard in our life.

“Love and Peace” by Girma Yifrashewa is available now from Unseen Worlds.

“Bodhisattvas walk among us. In any single breath, each of us can become an enlightening being. In the next breath, we might fall into our old habits of thoughtlessness and violence. Zazen reveals that this choice is always with us. Our deluded and hurtful actions contain seeds that can flower either as wondrous peace or terrible harm. Our vision can sustain the world, if only we dare to look deeply. Our great ancestor, Layman Vimalakirti, described the Bodhisattva path this way:

During the short aeons of swords,
They meditate on love,
Introducing to nonviolence
Hundreds of millions of living beings.

In the middle of great battles
They remain impartial to both sides;
For bodhisattvas of great strength
Delight in reconciliation of conflict.
In order to help the living beings,
They voluntarily descend into
The hells which are attached
To all the inconceivable buddha-fields.

Two thousand years later we are still living up to this challenge, falling short, and vowing again. Let us take our vows seriously and be Bodhisattvas. Respect our Zen tradition and buddha ancestors, but be truly accountable to all beings now and in the future. Bring peace and zazen mind right into the middle of our messy, grieving, wondrous world. Please watch your step and don’t waste time.”

– Hozan Alan Senauke, “Vowing Peace in an Age of War

BAND OF THE WEEK: PLANES OF SATORI

23 Apr

We don’t believe in things like “Albums of the Year” – we barely even believe in “years.” But we believe in Planes of Satori.

 photo 03CB4591-2BD5-4AF6-8134-4FD0EF669F99_zps0pqwhmfz.jpg

Yet upon hearing the self-titled, debut full-length album Planes of Satori, “album of the year” was without a doubt our initial exclamation. How else to express the scope, individuality and, ultimately, unbridled transmission of energy that comes from the album’s feverishly flawless thirty-five minutes?

Trying to explain the path or ascertain the direction of Planes of Satori is something like trying to determine the path of light from the sun, or the reflection of that light on the moon. It comes from ten-thousand directions equally, more powerfully than you can ever fully comprehend, delivering a message you need to understand but can never fully translate – and it’s everywhere, all the time.

It’s the sound, as the band might say, of the “Gnostic Boogie.”

And boogie it does. The seven songs assembled serve as our deliverance to the higher plane of Planes of Satori, and the four indestructible elements of drums, guitar, bass and vocals are perfectly in-synch from the start. “Eyes” opens the album with the band’s declaration of a total clarity of vision, even in the midst of wondering what space would feel like, wondering “if its eyes are yours or mine.” “If You Must Know” seems to be the sister song to “Eyes,” bringing the album to a velocity we might call “anxious-dub.” The interplay between the guitar, drums, bass and vocals on the first three songs, in particular, is so fluent as to be intimidating, but it’s the previously mentioned “Gnostic Boogie” that perhaps charges the hardest, reaches the furthest, takes the express way to “out there,” with the snarl and snap of a galaxy of collapsing stars.

Yes, but what does it sound like? Long time readers of this website (both of them) will recognize that we specialize in not being able to offer a concrete or coherent description of the music we praise, and certainly Planes of Satori also defy our capacity for description. It’s hard not to consider for a moment the somewhat-similar interstellar achievements of Flower Travellin’ Band, largely because of the invocation of the word “satori,” and more meaningfully and less tangibly, the concept of “satori.” And perhaps it’s the Bay Area roots of Planes of Satori that colors our perception, but the spirit of the “primal Dead” seems alive and well here, particularly in the acrobatic, lysergic lines that define songs like “The Ballad of Queen Milo” – songs that practically beg for a thirty-minute exploration. Mostly, Planes of Satori seem to float in their own sonic universe, able to wear the clothes of any description you care to impart – intergalactic afro-latin space-punk jazz-psych, anyone? – while remaining, simply, just Planes of Satori at the core.

It’s the sound of discovery itself that most informs the Planes of Satori sound, as if the band created their own universe of sound to inhabit, and decided to play around in there for awhile. Let’s thank our good fortune that they recorded these memories of their trip.

Planes of Satori’s amazing self-titled debut is available from Who Can You Trust? Records.

“The dharma of thusness has been intimately conveyed from buddhas and ancestors. It has been transmitted generation after generation down to me. It has nothing to do with being complete or incomplete, nor does it concern enlightenment upon enlightenment or delusion within delusion. Just manifest genjokoan. Play freely in self-fulfilling and other-fulfilling samadhi. Maintain and nourish the one Buddha mind seal. Life after life, birth after birth, please practice diligently. Never falter. Do not let die the wisdom of the buddhas and ancestors. Truly I implore you.” – Maezumi Roshi

BAND OF THE WEEK: THE CUSH

16 Apr

It’s hard to know for sure, but we’ve got a pretty good idea where the collective tongue of The Cush was placed when they decided to begin their new album – the unbelievably wonderful “Transcendental Heat Wave” – with a song titled “Heavy Psych.”

BE19172C-85BB-4D47-AC55-80B51100DC8C_zps6nhvbj9w

Yet it takes no more than thirty-eight seconds of “Heavy Psych” to elapse before any concerns about tongues, cheeks or even “psych” are completely wiped away from our mind, crushed by the crashing wave of The Cush at full power, culminating in an unforgettable falsetto-led chorus that hits its mark as assuredly as the finest archer in all of the universe. “To find the time for all the things we dream” are the words we hear buried within the massive … well, transcendental heat wave of sound, which is appropriate – finding an album like “Transcendental Heat Wave” is finding music so good we dream about it.

“One Shot Love” swings its single-shot like an extra-terrestrial glam-rock warrior, all crushed-velvet leopard skin flares as worn by the alien race. “Orange Like Water” recalls something as mighty and mythical as the neo-krautrock glory of Verma – a master-class in controlled chaos, the reckoning of restraint versus “rolling again.” “Highway Brain” continues the motorik-mutation of The Cush, molecularly manifesting itself into the sound of a “feeling like never before” or, alternately and more directly, one of the top-ten driving songs we’ve ever had the good fortune of hearing in our long, often misdirected life.

Pockets of sonic penetration deep and dark enough to make us swoon litter “Transcendental Heat Wave,” resulting in a profound and peculiar album. We see it in “Phantom Girl,” it’s alive in the robotic thump of “Droids” and the signal is picked up, unbroken, on “Broken Radio,” an anthem to strip malls, industrial graveyards and the knowledge that “your crown jewels are the teeth of the hydra.” “Summer’s Gone” finds us back behind the wheel, adopting an Psychic Ills-like somnambulant-swagger before the tag-team of “Color Your Eyes” and “The Distant Light” close the album on a transcendental-torch-song note, where elements of outer space slow-jams abound. “Dreaming with you was an easy thing to do” declare The Cush, before slowly coming apart at the seams and regenerating itself in the span of seconds, all the way down to a languid, lamenting solo that fades us out, wondering if anything ever really ends.

There’s a vitality, imagination and undeniable spirit of motion throughout “Transcendental Heat Wave,” a powerful sense of escape velocity that allows the album to unfold something like a perfectly planned road trip. Allusions to driving color the album – references to being on the road, behind the wheel and just a few transcendental car-lengths away from whatever elements of control and paranoia happen to be flashing their brights at you in this very moment. “Transcendental Heat Wave”? Yeah. We could use a lift.

“Transcendental Heat Wave” by The Cush is available now from Dreamy Soundz Records.

Here’s our interview with The Cush from 2012.

 

“No trace of space
Is there before
The absence of obstruction
Which describes it.

With no obstruction,
How can there be
Absence of obstruction?
Who distinguishes between them?

Space is not obstruction
Or an absence of it,
Nor is it a description
Or something to describe.

Fluidity and heat,
Energy and gravity
Are just like space.

In seeing things
To be or not to be
Fools fail to see
A world at ease.”

– Nargarjuna, “Verses from the Center

 

BAND OF THE WEEK: GNOD

9 Apr

In GNOD we trust.

96DB59A3-98AE-4BEF-A91E-3AD51CE24566_zpsmvqstv0i

In GNOD we believe. In GNOD we commit. In GNOD we give. In GNOD we sacrifice. In GNOD we depend. In GNOD we rely. In GNOD we confine. In GNOD we break. In GNOD we hex. In GNOD we desire. In GNOD we desire. In GNOD we follow. In GNOD we manifest. In GNOD we attain. In GNOD we share. In GNOD we train. In GNOD we obscure. In GNOD we practice. In GNOD we categorize. In GNOD we focus. In GNOD we abstain. In GNOD we judge. In GNOD we arise. In GNOD we express. In GNOD we present. In GNOD we shine. In GNOD we reach. In GNOD we understand. In GNOD we rest. In GNOD we return. In GNOD we turn. In GNOD we condition. In GNOD we grasp. In GNOD we detach. In GNOD we include. In GNOD we articulate. In GNOD we illuminate. In GNOD we balance. In GNOD we echo. In GNOD we expound. In GNOD we emphasize. In GNOD we neglect. In GNOD we lead. In GNOD we settle. In GNOD we function. In GNOD we experience. In GNOD we dwell. In GNOD we cherish. In GNOD we interpenetrate. In GNOD we labor. In GNOD we accomplish. In GNOD we manage. In GNOD we respond. In GNOD we see. In GNOD we hear. In GNOD we transcend. In GNOD we surpass. In GNOD we objectify. In GNOD we transmit. In GNOD we appreciate. In GNOD we invoke. In GNOD we damage. In GNOD we wank. In GNOD we teach. In GNOD we misunderstand. In GNOD we descend. In GNOD we suffer. In GNOD we return. In GNOD we journey. In GNOD we awaken. In GNOD we indulge. In GNOD we generate. In GNOD we aim. In GNOD we dramatize. In GNOD we comment. In GNOD we create. In GNOD we champion. In GNOD we treasure. In GNOD we develop. In GNOD we differ. In GNOD we emphasize. In GNOD we elaborate. In GNOD we remark. In GNOD we delight. In GNOD we proclaim. In GNOD we challenge. In GNOD we exist. In GNOD we implicate. In GNOD we liberate. In GNOD we shift. In GNOD we extinguish. In GNOD we generate. In GNOD we exhort. In GNOD we describe. In GNOD we desecrate. In GNOD we proceed. In GNOD we substantiate. In GNOD we allude. In GNOD we fathom. In GNOD we sync. In GNOD we appropriate. In GNOD we inquire. In GNOD we conclude.

In GNOD we trust.

“Infinity Machines” is one of the greatest albums we’ve ever heard and has awakened a new found, high-appreciation of the saxophone. It’s out April 20 from the mighty Rocket Recordings.

 

“In old Earth cultures, the shaman is the servant of the people, the ancestors, the gods, creatures and plants, and the elements. When the world is out of balance, the shaman redresses the disequilibrium. In these cultures illness, planetary or personal, is understood as a loss of connection—an existential alienation. This alienation expresses itself as a divided self, a self that has forgotten and abandoned the infinity of its being.” – Roshi Joan Halifax

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 182 other followers