BAND OF THE WEEK: FLAMINGODS

11 Jun

You’ll have to excuse us – or at least ignore us – if we’re guilty of hyperbole when it comes to “Hyperborea,” the full-length album from London’s Flamingods.

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You see, we’ve been listening to “Hyperborea” since sometime after its release this past summer, and we’re about ready to declare it one of the best albums we’ve ever heard. In fact, we’re ready. Here goes: “Hyperborea” is one of the best albums we’ve ever heard.

And while we’d like to say, “let us explain why” … how in the world could we possibly explain why? Just listen.

Meet us by the drum(s) for an album equal parts party and profound. Strange, heavy, fast, slow, mellow, manic, memorable – “Hyperborea” can check off any criteria your ears may require, regardless of fashion, season or circumstance. Its sound is timeless and formless, leaping forward and backward in time, intensely vast in scope, the irresistible antidote to smile suppression.

Ordinary playground sounds turn hypnotic on “Garden of Indra” while “Morning Raga” coolly crashes the shore like music from an unimagined Jack Kirby comic about the life of Ravi Shankar. On its title track, “Hyperborea” achieves previously unimaginable levels of brilliance, sounding ultimately effortless and radical, always finding spaciousness in confined spaces.

In a previous lifetime, there would probably be some temptation to call Flamingods “world music.” And while something about that term feels both too general (what music isn’t “world music”?) and too limiting for “Hyperborea,” the great success of this album would seem to lie in the glory of its gargantuan, global racket. It’s one of the best albums we’ve ever heard and we can hardly wait to hear what they create next.

“Hyperborea” is available at the Flamingods Bandcamp page – vinyl is available at the Shape Records Bandcamp page. You should check it out.

“We can find it in books. We can find it in the sutras. We can find it by asking. And, most important, we can find it simply by looking into ourselves. Why do we practice? What is it that we seek? What is it that we want? What is it that we are prepared to do to get what we want? Are we willing to practice the edge, take a risk, unreservedly throw ourselves into practice? Or are we just being opportunistic and calculating, ready only to skim a little cream off the top to take care of the immediate problems, but not ready to go to the depths?” – John Daido Loori, “Invoking Reality

 

 

BAND OF THE WEEK: MAX PAIN AND THE GROOVIES

4 Jun

If Max Pain and the Groovies didn’t exist, someone would have to invent them.

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Sometimes we daydream about forming our own personal cartoon cosmos of music, hand-drawn and unstoppable, filled with bands that are too cool to actually exist, with riffs so huge, so catchy, they can bridge the unimaginable, endless yawning void between galaxies. In space, no one can hear you get down and boogie.

But mostly, we just hang out and listen to Deep Purple records. With the billion-star-bright impression left in our mind after listening to “Electro Cosmic” by Max Pain and the Groovies, it’s like doing both of those things at the same time.

The fact is this: Max Pain and the Groovies really don’t sound like Deep Purple (nor should they). And we would likely like a band called Max Pain and the Groovies because we would like to like a band called Max Pain and the Groovies. And it’s only a bonus that Max Pain and the Groovies specialize in the type freedom-through-form rock and roll liberation that we find liberating. Songs about mud-tracks and moonshine, about moving faster than time can go, from a band called Max Pain and the Groovies? We’re into it.

C’mon – Max Pain and the Groovies have gone space truckin’. Or maybe space biking (“Swirvin’,” a psilocybin-Steppenwolf swirl of a song). They’ve almost certainly gone space fucking (“Spank Bank”). Then again, it’s hard to tell (“Hard to Tell”).

But we can tell you this: when we listen to “Murder,” and the odd, Jorma Kaukonan-esque guitar flourishes start to do their strange, beautiful, echoing insect calisthenics across the ridge-line of the great mountain of sound laid down by the fuzz-saw bass line, and the effortless, popping backbeat that puts us in the mind of Paul Revere and The Raiders, wearing face-bongs instead of tri-cornered hats … at that moment, there’s nothing better on earth than “Electro Cosmic” by Max Pain and The Groovies.

“Electro Cosmic” by Max Pain and the Groovies is available as a name-your-price download here. You’d be silly not to get it.

“The seed can be looked at in and of itself. Or it can be seen as a point in a process. Sitting quietly, breathing, inside and outside interpenetrating, we come up against similar wonderings. Where does one thing end and another begin? Contemplation involves slowing the mind down, taking it into the breath, until it manifests the natural rhythms of life itself, and no longer needs to grasp at the fruit of mental energy; you are down in the soil where thoughts grow, arise, die away. The foundation. The source. Giving rise to the ten thousand things, the whole manifest universe. I often contemplate the seed of our cosmos, which scientists tell us was very small and dense and hot: we were all packed in there together back in the day. Our minds and genitals and bank accounts and families were fused as one. Then there was an explosion, and we were torn apart. Our basic DNA is stardust, cosmologists tell us. We then grew arms and eardrums to connect once again; blood gurgled up to lubricate our movements; we grew feet to walk toward each other; retinas to take each other in; fingers to pick lice from each others’ coats of hair, and to slide rings onto one another.” – Shozan Jack Haubner 

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BAND OF THE WEEK: ANCIENT RIVER

28 May

Keeper of the Dawn” is the name of the new album from the globe-trotting duo known as Ancient River, and while the album’s admirably alive and aloof atmosphere – hazy, echoing circles of fog-clearing sound that blanket the sonic landscape as completely as any morning light – certainly captures the dawn, Ancient River have been around long enough to know that they can never truly keep the dawn. Not that they mind – as “Keeper of the Dawn” works to clearly confirm the band as the undeniable, enthusiastic keeper of all that is Ancient River.

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We’ve been watching this River flow for several years now, noticing how the current continues to grow stronger. Though we interviewed the band in anticipation of their 2010 Austin Psych Fest appearance, it was when we watched Ancient River perform at that very Fest in 2012 that they solidified their place in the heart of these apes, watching them announce from the stage that – dig this – they wanted to share their music, directing attendees to a big stack of free CDs. The current grows stronger – the current cannot be stopped.

The current cannot be stopped, indeed, but it is sometimes redirected. Ancient River has redirected themselves a few times over the years and a steady stream of releases, yet with “Keeper of the Dawn” comes the best evidence yet that the band’s downsizing in membership has only served to expand the scope of their sound, to magnify their music immeasurable.

On “Mother of Light,” the bands connects to the constant flow of their current in an utterly hypnotic way, while “Stay With Me” carries the sound even further, bringing to mind the sun slowly peeking through an endless cloud cover.

And here is where it begins to feel like an absolute fools errand to try to define the sound of “Keeper of the Dawn.” Ancient River are so dialed-in to their individual current at this moment – a current strengthened, without question, by the duo’s relentless touring – that the entire album becomes more than a sum of its parts, just as the dawn can be felt each morning as something more than our moon momentarily disappearing from view. Don’t mistake the simplicity presented on “Keeper of the Dawn” for a lack of depth – these songs sound a mile wide and just as deep. Ancient River has turned over time to also be much more than the sum of its parts, and on “Keeper of the Dawn,” to simply be Ancient River. The album is a keeper in a thousand different ways.

Keeper of the Dawn” is available now.

Locals: Ancient River play Strange Matter on Thursday, June 4. Be there or be square.

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“Zen has been called the ‘religion before religion,’ which is to say that anyone can practice, including those committed to another faith. And that phrase evokes that natural religion of our early childhood, when heaven and a splendorous earth were one. But soon the child’s clear eye is clouded over by ideas and opinions, preconceptions and abstractions. Not until years later does an instinct come that a vital sense of mystery has been withdrawn. The sun glints through the pines, and the heart is pierced in a moment of beauty and strange pain, like a memory of paradise. After that day, at the bottom of each breath, there is a hollow place filled with longing. We become seekers without knowing that we seek, and at first, we long for something ‘greater’ than ourselves, something apart and far away. It is not a return to childhood, for childhood is not a truly enlightened state. Yet to seek one’s own true nature is ‘a way to lead you to your long lost home.'”

– Peter Matthiessen, “Nine-Headed Dragon River: Zen Journals, 1969-1982

PAW PAW

26 May

Two years have passed since we initially declared our love for the music of Paw Paw, and in that time, we are confident that Eston Lathrop (the birth name of the multi-instrumentalist responsible for the Paw Paw galaxy of sound) has gone through a variety of changes.

We’re also confident that those changes – whatever they may be – have a direct impact on “Full Earth Greeting,” the extraordinary, just-released album from Paw Paw on Fire Talk Records.

But then – plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Our original assessment of Paw Paw’s music was that it sounds exquisite, poetic and eternal and if anything, we’ve only doubled down on that assessment since being introduced to “Full Earth Greeting.”

It’s difficult to even assign something like a label or genre to Paw Paw’s music, especially at the scope so fully investigated on “Full Earth Greeting.” This would seem to be the music of deep breaths and deeper thoughts – not to mention the music that allows those very thoughts to slip immediately into perfumed memory.

The good news is that we don’t have any desire to assign a genre-label to Paw Paw, nor to the immediate, undeniable beauty of “Full Earth Greeting” as an album. And while the interview below may illuminate some corners of the album that we may have missed on our first twenty listens, all you really need for “Full Earth Greeting” to reveal itself to you is forty-one minutes and an open set of ears.

We’re grateful to Paw Paw for his music, and for answering our ridiculous questions below. Enjoy.

How would you describe your earliest experiences with making music in your youth? Was it something that was generally supported by your family or peer group, or was it to be more of a solitary pursuit? What were the albums or artists that convinced you that making music is something that you can do, and do yourself?

I played drums/percussion in band starting in, like, 4th grade or so. It was something that my family absolutely supported since I really took to it. I was given a handed down snare drum and some sheet music and totally nailed “The Addams Family” theme song. When high school came and went, I’d dropped out of the concert/marching band and resorted to making music with friends. Trevor (of Woodsman/Fire Talk Records) and I grew up together and have basically been making music together ever since.

I can’t really pin it down to a certain thing which I gained the confidence to make music myself. I’ve just sort of always recorded for fun. It’s basically a therapeutic experience for me.

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Do you feel that, in general, music captures your imagination in a way that is different than books, paintings, etc.? In what way?

I think they can be similar, depending on your acceptance of emotions or your state of mind at the time. Books have the ability to give you a direct setting, as well as paintings. Yet you still imagine them and you add other details that may be relatable. With music, I think it has potential to be more in-depth and more interpretive. I’ve had the most powerful experiences, personally, directly in front of the stage at a live show. Seeing Spectrum at Austin Psych Fest in 2011 with my friends was one of those times, for example.

When considering your own personal musical evolution, can you pinpoint one or two people in your life who you feel are most responsible for expanding your musical palette, so to speak? Is there one album or band from your adolescence you have returned to most for inspiration or perhaps introspection?

My Dad and Trevor.

If I’d have to choose one band, it’d have to be The Beatles, as ordinary as that sounds. Every time I hear “Sgt. Pepper,” it takes me back to when I was a kid, listening to it, reading the lyrics, and driving around the Northwestern Iowa countryside.

We have an enormous and growing soft spot in our heart for “Full Earth Greeting.” What can you tell us about the origin of the album title? What did you take away most significantly about your own place as a musician from the experience of recording this album?

Thank you! The album title, if I remember correctly, was an excellent Google Translate deformation. I typed in something like, “Greetings, Earthling” and converted it into Japanese, then back into English. “Full Earth Greeting.” I fell in love instantly.

The process of recording the album though was a real test of sanity. I’ve been working on it off and on for almost two years now. It’s gone through a few variations and times of uncertainty to now where I’m totally happy and confident in its representation of myself and what I hope people will take away from listening to it.

What can you tell us about the sequencing of the album – how important is that to you in the overall impression you desired to make with “Full Earth Greeting”? We’re thinking specifically here about the album beginning with “Foreverrr” and ending with “Dream Result – a happy accident or pre-determined spaces?

That wasn’t always the order of things but once I landed on that, I knew it was right. I didn’t want it to really be too “concept”-y of an album, but there’s most definitely a little journey I hope to take the listener on.

What music have you been listening to lately? If you had to choose, what’s an album that encourages within you a deep and direct connection to the Earth, and why?

Tartit, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Samba Touré, Tinariwen, The War On Drugs, The Caretaker, Forma, Grapefruit, Cloudsound, Creation VI. Deepest connection? Puerta del Sol – “S/T.” That album is firmly planted in the soil yet reaches towards the stars. Favorite nap time album.

Hermann Hesse wrote the following in “Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte“:

“So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”

Your thoughts?

Trees are dumb! No, it reminds me of the early talks of G.I. Gurdjieff, “Views From the Real World”. Basically he explains that learning the fundamental aspects and principles of the universe, the tree possesses ‘a key to the understanding of Unity.’ So I believe that Hesse was saying something similar- you do learn from the tree. (Maybe the trees are just dumb old beings trying to tell us what to do, in a childish mind.) You learn what it is to be one with all, you take great comfort in this knowledge. It doesn’t matter what you are. True understanding is the truest happiness.

What’s next for Paw Paw?

Recording. Trying to get people to take a little time out of their day to listen to the new album, to unwind and let their mind wander away from the “realities” of our “solid state,” if you know what I mean. I’ll also be playing the Underground Music Showcase in Denver, CO, in July.

“Full Earth Greeting” is available now. It’s spectacular. Unwind and let your mind wander, as the man says.

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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