BAND OF THE WEEK: DEAD SEA APES + ZETA ONE

1 Oct

There’s an undeniably deep – and perhaps unjustifiable – personal connection that we feel in regard to the music of Dead Sea Apes, the UK-dwelling, three-headed hydra of space-dub who’ve recently released their third and arguably finest full-length album to date, “Spectral Domain” (a co-release from Cardinal Fuzz and their stateside partners, Sunrise Ocean Bender).

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It’s a connection that, frankly, probably has something to do with the use of the word “ape.” But there’s also something much, much deeper than that. Yet having now been listening to Dead Sea Apes rather intently and undoubtedly intensely for the better part of five years, it’s difficult to parse out exactly what it is that sets “Spectral Domain” apart from the Ape-scapes that preceded it. Indeed, this album stands up nicely as simply a multi-dimensional prism of their first album, the world-beating “Lupus,” reflecting related territories, now further refined, but with a sound that cascades even more broadly, powered by a more muscular sense of sonic sturm und drang. That Dead Sea Apes seem to be growing steadily “heavier” – in the most sacred, most inexpressible sense of the word – is a bit counter-intuitive. If the earliest Dead Sea Apes material was heavily indebted to the power of the almighty riff, “Spectral Domain” sees the band training their collective third-eye on the invisible twin-engines of tone and timbre.

The tonal transitions that build the band’s battered bridge between wondering and wandering are evident in every single minute of “Spectral Domain,” without a single lost or wasted moment.

The ten minutes-plus of “Universal Interrogator” set the tone for the album as a whole – deliberate, unhurried and unafraid to paint their shared canvas several shades darker than “nefarious.” It seems key that the first word on “Spectral Domain” references the universal, especially given that the Apes provide no context clues in the form of vocals. It seems that the true magic of “Spectral Domain” – and the true magick of Dead Sea Apes, historically – is the band’s ability to create from thin air a shared musical language between its three members. In their capable hands, this experience tracks as something several meaningful degrees apart from simply “jamming,” and towards a freedom to roam and explore that envelops the listener into an exercise in Gnosis.

Big-G “gnosis” is not a concept that lends itself to easy explanation; in fact, it may defy explanation by its very definition, as does the music of Dead Sea Apes in general, and “Spectral Domain” in particular. Hailing Dead Sea Apes’ unearthly dub-gnosticism is a tricky proposition, as it’s quite literally impossible for us to write something that your ears don’t instinctively know. Yet somewhere between Armageddon and salvation, somewhere amid the P.K. Dick-meets-King Tubby-in-space environs masterfully manifested on album-closer “Sixth Side of the Pentagon,” there’s a shared knowledge that awaits transmission, and it begins with the realization that there’s no band on earth heavier than Dead Sea Apes.

If the strength of “Spectral Domain” lies in the Professor X-level mind-meld that occurs between the band’s members, the debut release from Zeta One benefits from an equal-but-alternate approach to roaming gnosis, a singular and solitary version of cosmic exploration, with no lack of mutant flavor in its mass of way-out sounds.

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DreamSnake II” (out now from the incessantly awesome Eiderdown Records) is the work of one Dawn Aquarius, who formerly spent time in previous (and without a doubt, future) “Band of the Week” victims, Herbcraft. Consisting of ten tracks over a pulse-quickening and eye-opening thirty-six minutes, “Dreamsnake II” sheds its sonic skin and leaves behind an unforgettable, indescribable, synth-heavy cosmic ceremony of turbo-weird delights.

So, what does it sound like? It’s called “DreamSnake II,” it’s the creation of a woman named Dawn Aquarius, who used to be in Herbcraft, and it boasts song titles like “Face Humanoid,” “Mysteri-Atman” and “Ching Witch.” You do the math.

Or better yet, don’t do the math. Listen to Zeta One without expectations, your ears open to any and all interpretation. We knew nothing about “DreamSnake II” or its creator upon our first listen; we knew only that it was a new release Eiderdown Records, which, historically, is all we need to pique the interest of the apes.

What we found was a release positively over-flowing with crystal-visioned creativity. Ladies and gentleman, we are floating way, way, way out in space. On “Electroscopic,” Zeta One echoes with the type of intergalactic yearning that recalls Brightblack Morning Light. On “Gamma Draconis,” Zeta One delivers a miniature Faust-ian waltz, appropriate for dances on alternate galaxies or in altered states. On “WORGOZWEIL,” Zeta One rumbles like Suicide’s “Ghost Rider,” generating an image of Johnny Blaze’s flaming skull sending stacks of tarot cards alight and up in smoke.

Smoke ‘em if ya’ got ‘em. “DreamSnake II” spoke to us directly, immediately. Not a day has gone by since first listen that we haven’t incorporated “DreamSnake II” into our daily rotation, either early, early in the morning and late, late, late at night – and Zeta One fits both spots perfectly. We know exactly what Zeta One is saying, even though, much like Dead Sea Apes, we’d be hard-pressed to accurately translate what exactly is being said. Listen – can you hear it, too?

Dead Sea Apes‘ “Spectral Domain” is available now.

Zeta One’s “DreamSnake II” is available now, too.

“If we make a quick examination of our own mind, we can see the reason this kind of stability is so crucial. Although physics has observed light to be the fastest traveling phenomenon known to man, actually the speed at which our minds travel is even faster. We can circle the globe in a matter of seconds, and our minds generate doubts, emotions, and conceptual thoughts at a speed that defies that of all other phenomena. Because we lack basic mental stability, conceptual thoughts arise endlessly. So, if our goal is to realize the nature of mind, we first have to learn to still our minds, and free ourselves from distraction. The method for quieting the mind is called ‘meditative concentration.’ Once we have gained some initial mind stability, it is even more important that we continue our training so that this stability will increase. Without such stability, it is impossible for us to successfully learn to abide in the uncontrived view.”
Anyen Rinpoche, The Union of Dzogchen and Bodhichitta

BAND OF THE WEEK: LUMINOUS BODIES

24 Sep

“Scumbag lysergic racket” is the term-employed by Luminous Bodies in order to describe the titanic, tinnitus-friendly amplified chaos birthed and blasted relentlessly on their recently released self-titled debut album (out now on Box Records).

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We’ll withhold our judgment at the moment on the band’s self-identification under the label of “scumbag,” but when it comes to a “lysergic racket,” perhaps no band on earth has ever more accurately nailed their appeal, their essence, their molten core. So spot-on is the description that it makes writing about Luminous Bodies feel like an exercise in futility, and not a particularly beneficial exercise at that. Suffice it to say that Luminous Bodies are currently the galaxy’s foremost and most accomplished purveyors of “scumbag lysergic racket,” and the resulting album is undeniably the “scumbag lysergic racket” album of the year.

Saying much more than that would threaten to destroy the utter joy that comes from having these songs shred the time and space continuum that exists between our ears, which we’re tempted to describe as the sound of Galactus giving up the intergalactic ghost, smoking a bag of anything, and getting way, way, way into “Vincebus Eruptum.” The Luminous Bodies mission statement could be something like, “land on a riff, bash that motherfucker out, squeeze the life out of it and create a new life in the process.” But such descriptions may trivialize the album’s accomplishments and, more important, such descriptions fail to better that which has erupted straight from the Bodies’ mouth – “scumbag lysergic racket.”

When the album opens with “Man’s Milk,” a high-steed ride designed to trample and crush all that step into its path, the listener inevitably felled while asking the musical question, “How come David Lee Roth never joined the Melvins for ‘Stoner Witch’”? It’s “scumbag lysergic racket.”

When “Stay Dead” delivers what is possibly the most life-affirming hook on the entire album (and make no mistake – this is “scumbag lysergic racket” that is at times positively riddled with hooks), while croaking out classic lines like, “a collapsing star is your new look”? It’s “scumbag lysergic racket.”

When “Lady Graveyard” struts and slays, bringing to mind a distant, alien-born relative to Pentagram’s “Lazy Lady,” or what would be, in the wrong hands, the worst song that L.A. Guns never recorded, yet, instead, effortlessly becomes “A.C. Guns (alpha centauri, that is)”? When “Destroyed” employs a “Pay to Cum” pace and extolls the virtues of drugs and brown rice, possibly at the same time? When album closer “Om Naman Shivaya” dares to ask another musical question that no thought needed answering – namely, “Wouldn’t it be cool if Donovan joined Extreme Noise Terror”? It’s “scumbag lysergic racket.”

All hail “scumbag lysergic racket.” All hail Luminous Bodies. Listen loudly. Listen repeatedly. Stay dead.

The self-titled debut from Luminous Bodies is available now from Box Records.

“Luminous is this mind, brightly shining, but it is colored by the attachments that visit it. This unlearned people do not really understand, and so do not cultivate the mind. Luminous is this mind, brightly shining, and it is free of the attachments that visit it. This the noble follower of the way really understands; so for them there is cultivation of the mind.” – Anguttara Nikaya

 

BAND OF THE WEEK: XUA

16 Sep

Mekong Moon,” the stunning, magical and magically addictive debut album from Xua, is preceded by a musical question or two, as asked by the album’s creator, one Joshua Lee Vineyard, notably also a member of Portland, Oregon’s “Bardo”-blasting Swahili (a band that itself was a recent victim of “Band of the Week” honors). Vineyard asks …

“What would a future world sound like if eastern culture emerged as the world’s dominating power? What unheard radio transmissions would emerge?”

They’re questions that are not quite answerable, but neither are they exactly rhetorical. Yet if “Mekong Moon” can be heard as Vineyard’s attempt at earnestly responding to his own questions and hearing the answers in what was previously unheard, we can’t be alone in hearing a future world that sounds beautiful, wide-awake and endlessly expansive, a transmission far outside the limits of genre or geography – and easily one of the most fully engrossing albums of this (or any other) year.

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Thematically, the origin of “Mekong Moon” lies in Vineyard’s travels throughout Southeast Asia, while sonically, the album speaks in the language of 70s synth techniques, perhaps not krautrock in any defined sense, but certainly not not-kosmische. As a point of reference, “Mekong Moon” pairs favorably with “Musik Von Harmonia,” the Harmonia debut from 1974 – Xua songs like “Man Teiv Ghosts” and “Snow Globe” can be heard as distant cousins to Harmonia’s “Watussi” and “Dino.” But where Harmonia was somewhat of a supergroup, Xua’s is a decidedly solitary journey – no group, but super nonetheless.

“Mekong Moon” begins with the title track, field-recorded chanting merging with ominous voiceover (which we no doubt erroneously hear as the Vietnamese equivalent to “stand clear of the closing doors, please”), before stepping cinematically into an all-enveloping blanket of sound, serpentine and seductive. The beauty on display in the opening minutes of “Mekong Moon” is positively overwhelming to our ears, a cascading wave of sound, pulsing as vibrantly, as vividly as the multi-hued lunar landscape that graces the album’s cover.

If the opening track threatens an album of dreamy soundscapes that float gently into the ether without regard for gravity – and this is perhaps the most beautiful threat that we can imagine – the simple-yet-insistent beat of “Man Tiev Ghosts” brings our moonlight ride closer to the realm of terra-firma. At the point of first listen, it becomes clear that “Mekong Moon” has the potential to be far more than just a collection of far-out sounds, but to coalesce into the form of an album with structure and, dare we say, dignity. By the time we’re two minutes in to the seven minutes of “Royal Nam Khan,” that potential has found full-flower in Xua’s majestic sounds.

As a whole, “Mekong Moon” sounds completely and utterly alive, and while it would be a stretch to say it ever attempts humor, there exists is these songs a certain wide-eyed wonderment that easily, effortlessly gives birth to smiles. We would suggest that “Mekong Moon” is neither “heavy” nor particularly “light.” Rather, it is both heavy and light, allowing room for infinite varieties of distinction, powered by a non-differentiation between “heavy” and “light.”

Still, despite repeat playings of “Mekong Moon” that number well in to double-digits, we would deny a grasp on anything like expertise (or even anything beyond a rudimentary understanding) on topics such as Southeast Asia and 70s synth techniques, nor the merging of the two. All we can do is react to the result. For Xua’s “Mekong Moon,” that result is an album that sounds perfectly perfumed by both reality and fantasy, magnificently manifested in now-heard radio transmissions delivered by Vineyard’s active, agile imagination.

“Mekong Moon” by Xua is available now from Debacle Records.

“Treasury of the true Dharma-eye” – by Eihei Dogen

In the heart of the night,

The moonlight framing

A small boat drifting,

Tossed not by the waves

Nor swayed by the breeze.

“The image of illumination by the moon has connotations from the poetic tradition, in which it represents an object of longing and the source of comfort in times of turmoil and grief, as well as Buddhist implications as the symbol of the universal manifestations of the compassion and wisdom of Buddha-nature. The moon deepens the meaning of the resolute detachment of the casting off of the boat. The boat is cut off from the harbor, as perhaps Dōgen felt isolated during his trip to the Five Mountains Rinzai center. But because the boat falls within the encompassment of the moon’s glow, it is not lost but protected by the compassionate Buddha‐nature. Yet in contrast to the moon, the boat is not totally aloof from the world of variability; it remains involved, at once aimless in its solitude and purposeful in its disciplined response to change. The single phenomenon of the drifting boat shares the detached perspective and illuminative remoteness of the moonlight, and partakes of the world into which it has been cast out, yet has learned to cast off perpetually.” – Steven Heine, “The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace

BAND OF THE WEEK: MIDDAY VEIL

10 Sep

Somewhere among the sonic synchronicity that binds together the forty-two minutes of Midday Veil’s animated and eloquent new album “This Wilderness,” attentive listeners will be struck by the realization that the human organism embodied by the listener is an integral part of an interconnected ecosystem.

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It’s a realization about self, size and scope, and like the album itself, it’s massive. Midday Veil have long found themselves comfortable creating colossal concerns, as recorded on the band’s earliest, self-released explorations. The band’s preceding full-length album – 2013’s “The Current,” named one of the year’s best avant-rock releases by The Wire – could be viewed as the band emerging from their kosmische chrysalis, unfurling previously unheard banners of both color and control. “This Wilderness” is the sound of the band under the self-imposed hypnosis of that emergence, extending the voyage with even more discipline than ever before.

Yet it’s the mystery of “This Wilderness” that makes the album among the most creatively compelling of this or any year, and vocalist and founding member Emily Pothast gives voice to that mystery both literally and figuratively. On the opening invocation of “Babel,” Pothast addresses her place within “This Wilderness” and by extension, the place of the listener as well: “This wilderness amazes me / but covers me with shame / when I aspire to codify / the thing that has no name.” On “Babel” and throughout “This Wilderness,” the band stands firmly in the midst of that amazement, transmitting a wide-eyed discovery of the full potential of their sounds and surroundings, utterly resisting retreat into a preordained musical framework and embracing the endless multiplicity of perspective.

The beating musical heart of “This Wilderness” remains the out-sized synth wizardry of co-founder David Golightly, who seems to have ingested every possible mind-altering sound from Stockhausen to Cybotron to the “Love to Love You” of Donna Summer. They’re all on display here, made especially ornate by the driving percussion of Garrett Moore, the deep, submerging bass of Jayson Kochan, and the often-explosive, reptilian guitar lines of multi-instrumentalist Timm Mason. Rounding out the lineup is an all-star cast of guest spots including Bernie Worrell (Parliament, Funkadelic), Eyvind Kang and Skerik.

It’s unclear what will happen next, nor does it seem to particularly matter. Midday Veil will be staying in “This Wilderness” – in an increasingly interconnected, dynamic, even dangerous cosmos – for quite awhile, and it’s our good fortune to join them.

“Does it feel like magic? Does it feel like pain? Does it scratch the surface? The echo that remains.”

“This Wilderness” is out Sept. 11 on Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records.

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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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