GEIST AND THE SACRED ENSEMBLE
“Dirt from Geist Hands as He Walks From the Grave”
As a largely acoustic musical meditation on death and rebirth (various deaths and various rebirths, real and imagined, physical and psychological, to these ears), “In Search of Fabled Lands” resists easy categorization, at once skyward-gazing and planted firmly six feet underground. It’s an album that rewards the patient listener – nearly five minutes pass before opening track “Awaken/The Gut” moves beyond a grave-worm’s pace, only to be followed by the nine-minute “Grave Coins.”
Listen: I really don’t know how to describe the music of Geist and The Sacred Ensemble and I realize that describing this great album as “a largely acoustic musical meditation on death and rebirth” may bring to mind Simon and Garfunkel – this is not that (not that there’s anything wrong with that). This is music with groans and drones – I was listening to it one afternoon when a friend asked me, without a hint of jest, if I was listening to “music.” And I understood the question – though that friend did not have the benefit of listening to the album’s title-track, an instantly infectious, unforgettable bit of cosmic-carnival crash sure to turn the faith of any non-believer.
The album’s end result, for me, is something more far more life-affirming than might be expected. For those who can keep calm and carry on, the album is a unique soul flight, taking the listener from the dirt-caked and earth-bound to the full-moon and mystic … and back again. Not bad for an hour-long search.
Also not bad is the fact that for a limited time, you can download “In Search of Fabled Lands” for just one lousy American dollar – and you can grab individual tracks for free.
Frontman Michael Sauder was kind enough to answer our questions regarding the geist-bluster.
Translated into English from its Teutonic origins, the word “geist” can be used to refer to the mind or spirit, while at same time used to refer to a ghost, or the spirit of the dead. In what manner do you think of the word in relation to the music you create? How does the nuance of that word connect to the moniker “The Sacred Ensemble”?
I was born and raised on Geist Road in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. When I started thinking of a name to represent the music, I knew I wanted something that would remind me of my roots,and yet depict a similar mood to the sound. “Geist” would be the name. While spirit, mind and ghost are essentially one in the same, I feel each song could fill separate categories of spiritual fire, haunting or mental questioning to our modern reality.
Good friends are the most sacred things during our time on earth.”The Sacred Ensemble” includes some of my closest friends.
Would you ever consider the inspiration for your music – insofar as how sounds made long ago can lead to the creation to new sounds made today – as a form of communing with ghosts? What are the bands or musicians from the past that have most directly influenced your music?
Inspiration for the this album came from a time when I used to dig graves and set tombstones. From this work, I learned to be quite comfortable with death and the idea of other realms for our souls to go. As for musicians or bands that have influenced the music, I would have to say Ennio Morricone’s score for “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”, George Crumb’s “Ancient Voices of Children” and Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd.
How has your own personal background influenced the way you think about creating music today? Is there a single, prominent event or artist that you can recall inspiring you to create your own music? What was the first band you ever became obsessed with? How does that music hold up for you today?
Growing up in a Christian household and being a gravedigger, brought some interesting questions to my mind about purpose and meaning. These thoughts led me to write words and music with a touch of duality. Watching “Careful with that Ax Eugene” and ” A Saucer Full of Secret” from Pink Floyd’s “Live at Pompeii” made me realize a song could be what ever you want it to be. It didn’t always have to be verse, chorus, verse and it doesn’t always need to be easy to listen to.
With the title of your new album, “In Search of Fabled Lands,” is there a conscious nod to capturing the spirit of a time or place that has passed into history? Or is the approach in your mind something more akin to bringing forth a “new dawn,” so to speak? Are the “fabled lands” behind us or ahead of us? Neither? Is there a difference?
The fabled lands represent a personal garden of Eden, a place to strive for in the mind and spirit.
Have you ever seen the Leonard Nimoy-narrated, paranormal TV documentary series called “In Search Of …”? Are you familiar with the album “In Search Of …” by Fu Manchu, and if so, would you support me having its badass cover tattooed on my back at some point in the future?
Haha, wow, I had no clue any of these existed. There is another nod to the collective conscious pool.
The lead track on the album, “Awaken/The Gut,” creates what could be construed as an atmosphere of menace – with its wordless chants and dirge-pace offering warning to the listener that this journey “In Search of Fabled Lands” will be stopping by some inhospitable terrain along the way. Was there a conscious thought to having this piece open the album? How does it relate to the final track, “Cleansing and Revival”?
“Awaken” is the first track based on intuition. I felt “Cleansing and Revival” was a good choice at the end. Grounding the listener after going out to these “Fabled Lands.” In relation, both songs don’t use any effects.
We’ve asked this exact same question to Midday Veil, but it seems appropriate here as well: Portable Shrines, Escalator Fest, Magic Sound Theater … what the hell is going on in the Pacific Northwest? How does your environment impact the music you create?
The Pacific Northwest is a magical place, islands with abnormally high magnetic pulls, rain forest home to the alleged tree octopus (an octopus that lives in the tops of trees and eats birds.) and countless sightings of Sasquatch. Plus, with mountains and water almost everywhere who wouldn’t be inspired?
Portable Shrines has created a larger umbrella for what psychedelic is. By doing this, it has redefined the genre and brought outsider, unclassifiable experimental music in. We’re grateful to be apart of this thriving and exciting community.
A recent survey revealed that most RevoltoftheApes.com readers spend their spare time trying to play obscure Blue Oyster Cult songs and ruminating on the words of the great Bengali poet-philosopher, Rabi Thakur. As such, what are your thoughts on the words of Mr. Thakur below?
“Man is not entirely an animal. He aspires to a spiritual vision, which is the vision of the whole truth. This gives him the highest delight, because it reveals to him the deepest harmony that exists between him and his surroundings. It is our desires that limit the scope of our self-realization, hinder our extension of consciousness, and give rise to sin, which is the innermost barrier that keeps us apart from our God, setting up disunion and the arrogance of exclusiveness. For sin is not one mere action, but it is an attitude of life which takes for granted that our goal is finite, that our self is the ultimate truth, and that we are not all essentially one but exist each for his own separate individual existence.”
These days we are a four piece band unlike the three piece you hear on the album. Our old bassist moved to Chicago and we added two new members. This has given us the opportunity for a little more instrumentation and improvisation.
In addition, we are looking for another band to tour with in support of this album.This fall we’re hoping to start recording new music. We’re also looking to develop internationally as well. Needless to say, you’ll be hearing more from us.
Geist and The Sacred Ensemble photo above by Anne Murphy
“In Search of Fabled Lands” cover photo by Michelle Smith