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

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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

 

NEW VIDEO FROM TTOTALS: “LET THE LIGHT IN”

7 Apr

Our love of Ttotals is long-standing and, well, total. Their album “Let Everything Come Through” has come through for us every time, and we predict many, many more times of it coming through our speakers and headphones in the months and years to come. Ttotals are Ttotals – they are the outer blues.

Check out the new video for “Let the Light In” and we encourage all to let Ttotals into your lives – perhaps through the tour dates listed below. Enjoy.

Ttotals on Tour:

  • 4/7 Richmond, VA at Strange Matter w/ Lady God and The Foam
  • 4/8 Brooklyn, NY at Shea Stadium w/ The Ying Yangs, Holly Overton & Mark Perro and Heavy Birds
  • 4/9 Boston, MA at BLodge w/ The Lair, Soft Eyes and Mambo Dorito
  • 4/10 Beacon, NY at Quinn’s w/ It’s Not Night It’s Space and Geezer
  • 4/11 In-store at Rhino Records New Paltz, NY 2PM
  • 4/11 Philadelphia, PA at El Bar w/ Harsh Vibes, Natural Velvet and Dulls

 

“Simply by turning on the light, you can instantly destroy the darkness. Likewise, even a rather simple analysis of ego-clinging and afflictive emotions can make them collapse. By suppression we may temporarily subdue our afflictive emotions, but only an investigation of their true nature will completely eradicate them.” – Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

 

 

BAND OF THE WEEK: COBALT CRANES

2 Apr

Cobalt Cranes emerge from having their “Head in the Clouds” in favor of some “Days in the Sun,” and our days have been unquestionably, immeasurably brightened by their doing so.

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But let’s get something out of the way: the sound of Cobalt Cranes on “Days in the Sun” is, to these ears, an absolutely perfect sound, fully realized, immediately resonant (you’ll sing along in an instant) and yet revealing endless dimensions with each additional listen (and there have been months, and months, and months, of listens). The sound is appropriately sunny, yes, but with long shadows a-plenty; dark stars, graves and heavy hearts dot the entire landscape of the eight-song, twenty-nine minute album.

That’s a statistic that bears repeating: eight-songs in twenty-nine minutes, with not a moment rushed, and not a moment wasted. Concise, but never lacking depth, lean and loose all at the same time. The result is an album – indeed, a band – with more hooks than an elementary school coat rack.

We’re not entirely comfortable describing the sound of Cobalt Cranes as power-pop – more to the point, we’re not entirely comfortable describing the sound of Cobalt Cranes, full stop – but that seems to be the closest approximation we can settle on to capture, the magick of their power, their pop. Parts of “Days of the Sun” make us recall the toe-tapping best of Cheap Trick, or The Shoes, or The Raspberries,  or [insert power-pop band here]. But the reality is the term “power-pop” is really just our substitute for showering the band with the highest, and most appropriate, form of flattery in our arsenal; “Days in the Sun” is downright Beatles-esque. Here comes the sun, and it’s much, much more than alright, dude.

Which is to say the eight songs contained within “Days in the Sun” have found a permanent place in our head and in our (heavy) heart, almost to the point of distraction. For as immediate and enjoyable as the sound of Cobalt Cranes is (and if we haven’t made it clear up to this point – the sound of Cobalt Cranes is immediate and enjoyable; we very nearly swoon at the mere mention), there exists enough quirk, strangeness and charm in their sound for us to be unable to truly place them in their proper sonic spot. “Heading west to chase the sun/Through the darkness, on the run.” Long live the mystery of “Days in the Sun,” long live Cobalt Cranes.

“Days in the Sun” is available from Cobalt Cranes as a digital download, or on cassette from Lollipop Records.

“Essence is like the sun itself. The sun’s nature is to shine, to be warm, and to illuminate. In the same way, you should distinguish between mind and mind essence. Mind essence has all three of these qualities. It is the essence of this mind essence that is empty, the nature of this mind essence that is cognizant, and the capacity of this mind essence that is unconfined.” – Tsoknyi Rinpoche

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