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

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