The Black Angels encourage you to rethink your preconceived notions, question authority and create other methods for survival.
Early this past summer I had the good fortune to stumble upon a copy of a stunning masterpiece of a book by the author Hampton Sides, entitled “Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West.” While it’s difficult to overstate the massive scope and masterful nuance of this incredible book, buy me a drink sometime and I’ll make a good-faith effort to do just that.
One passage in particular from the book has returned to my thoughts many times in the intervening months. In it, the Mescalero chief Cadete expresses the following to Capt. John Cremony:
“Let me tell you what we think. You begin when you are little to work hard. After you get to be men, you build big houses, big towns, and everything else in proportion. Then, after you have got them all, you die and leave them behind. Now, we call that slavery. You are slaves from the time you begin to talk until you die; but we are free as air … Our wants are few and easily supplied. The river, the wood and plain yield all that we require. We will not be slaves, nor will we send our children to your schools, where they only learn to become like yourselves.”
Where lies the connection between this and the new album by The Black Angels, “Phosphene Dream”? I don’t know.
Both are inspiring to me, exciting to me, heavy to me. One sounds better than the other coming through the speakers of my car stereo when exploring the winding, strange and beautiful country roads that thankfully are still easy to find in my area of Virginia.
This is the feeling of connecting to art – when you can feel the effort, the spirit and the effort of spirit put forth by others connecting in some way with the Self.
This feeling continues – another piece of the puzzle.
Less puzzling is the connection between myself and the Canadian wizards of Black Mountain – or at least the music they make (I have no indication that the members of Black Mountain are either aware of, or in any way support, my existence).
It dates back to January 2005, shortly after my beautiful bride and I moved our son and our stuff from our city airport to our first house in the country (comparatively speaking, at least). Somehow, I stopped at a Barnes & Noble that I never stop at, browsed through a music selection where I never browse, and picked up an album called “Black Mountain,” by a band I had never heard. For the next six hours, desperate to retain a security deposit, I cleaned our old apartment from top to bottom, thinking about life, love and loss, all soundtracked by this incredible album and this incredible band. Those songs made inroads to my brain, and expressway to my skull, to my heart, helped along by sweat in my eyes and the scent of Mop’N’Glo in my lungs.
So, like The Black Angels, Black Mountain fall in to that even-widening category of bands for whom I will likely always to sworn to checking out their new stuff (unless Stephen McBean and company suddenly start sounding and dressing like Judas Priest on the “Turbo” tour. Actually, should that happen … expect me to redouble my support).
The new album “Wilderness Heart” sees no end in sight for this “must hear” status and if anything, has me wanting to declare it their best work yet, and surely one of the top albums I’ve heard all year. Since buying it, not a day has gone by that I haven’t listened to at least some of this stunner – and I don’t see it falling out of the rotation for some time to come.
Words fail me, so thank God for moving pictures. This brilliant and memorable video for “The Hair Song” says much more about the tone and feel of “Wilderness Heart” as anything I could ever hope to cobble together. Let spirits ride!
Check out this great interview with the co-director of the video, Zoe Bower, from LA Weekly.