Posts Tagged ‘drone’

Modern Nature – “Supernature”

As I may have mentioned before, I was saddened when Ultimate Painting not only folded last year, but also pulled their final album from release. It was a masterful pop album that deserved light, even if its creators were sent splitting in two different, irreconcilable directions. All is not lost, however. While UP has been consigned to the land of wind and ghosts, the two creative forces behind the band are, in fact, inexhaustible hubs of musical fare. It would seem that Jack Cooper is already onto his newest venture, releasing three new tracks as Modern Nature.

With a mutable lineup, that here includes keyboardist Will Young, drummer Aaron Neveu (Woods), cellist Ruper Gillett, and saxophonist Jeff Tobias (Sunwatchers), Cooper sets out to conquer a considerably more expansive end of the musical spectrum than he has dabbed in in the past. With a heavy investment in modal psych, the new EP embraces Cooper’s previous touches on psychedelic pop but drops through about six layers of mind fuzz further into the frosted ether for a sound that’s build on circular drones, sweat lodge sax hallucinations and a quasar-nudging foray into psychedelic chakra expansion. Its a surprising heel turn, but a welcome one nonetheless . Check the first track, which tops out around twelve minutes of cosmic float. The EP is out on Bella Union, March 22nd.

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Laaraji & Lyghte – Celestial Realms

In the past few years Laraaji has gone from something of a tightly traded name among New Age heads, experimental aficionados and yoga practitioners to a roundly celebrated artist with a wealth of material seeping back out into the reissue world. With entries into RVNG’s FRKWYS series and a collaboration with Brian Eno and Bill Laswell, he’s not light on stature, but it seems the current hunger for respite has driven the master of the zither further out into the light. There are plenty of points of entry for the curious among a catalog that’s decades deep, and none are more appropriate than his 1986 album with longtime collaborator Jonathan Goodman, aka Lyghte.

The original version of Celestial Realms was released to tape by New Age label Spirit Music, and it gets an upgrade here via Telephone Explosion’s brand-new offshoot Morning Trip. The album is two side-long tracks that delve deep into meditative trance. Lyghte provides the hypnotic bedrock that pins this to the mind – wavering and low, like the slow lap of a river. He leaves the sparkle to his foil Laraaji, who dazzles atop the drones with his Zither, bells, and guitars that predict the coming of Sun Araw’s psychedelic wobble long at a time when Stallones was more into silly putty than psilocybin.

The album is perfect not only for fans of vintage drone or New Age, but for those captivated by the dropout knockouts of more recent times – Emeralds, Kevin Drumm, Stars of the Lid fan take note and listen deep. It’s a great inaugural release for the fledgling label and perks my interest to see when Morning Trip goes from here. Whether you’re already scooping up the new and old issues from this NY legend or just want to unwind, a copy of Celestial Realms might be just the trick to block out the constant clatter of 2019.



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Spiral Joy Bad

Spun off from the din of Pelt, Spiral Joy Band has served over a decade as a parallel universe in which Mikel Dimmick, Patrick Best, and Troy Schafer can experiment further with the drones and zones that capture their attention. Originally envisioned as an acoustic counterpart, the band’s embraced the electric impulse over time and with their latest for MIE, they continue to open a portal to a haunted hollow beneath the earth’s crust. As with Pelt proper, SJB have a patient creep to them – embracing drones that float like fog a la Heldon or Ashra, while scraping some high plains guitar moan from the stones in the manner of Barn Owl and Charalambides.

On Summoning the similarities with the latter are cemented even further, with vocalist Dani Schafer’s incantations thrumming on the same cosmic wavelength that’s long driven Christina Carter. On centerpiece, “Starlings in Deerwood,” her vocals crack the cosmos and give the band’s guitar clash a run for its money in terms of holding the listener rapt. Then the band shakes the world tree with a clattering, mossy menagerie of drone, dirge, rattle and hum on the 20 min closer “Down the Lane the Park is Still and the Water Chill.” Fans of any of the aforementioned touchstones or Pelt for that matter have plenty to unpack on this limited press platter, perfect for the hibernation months ahead.



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Mt. Mountain

The good folks at Cardinal Fuzz and Little Cloud are sneaking a few more releases in here at the end of the year before 2018 collapses to a close. In the spirit of good things coming to those who wait, Perth’s Mt. Mountain offer up another drone-psych crusher with their third LP, Golden Rise. While their debut LP, Cosmos Terros was solid, the band truly came into their own on last year’s Dust, a record that paired their sparse menace with some impressive track lengths to great effect. While they don’t embrace the sidelong crusher as readily this time around, they bring the same sense of lysergic lilt and barren isolation, amping up the desert psych desperation and diving once more into the tectonic build of patient sonic destruction.

The patience is, perhaps, what sets Mt Mountain apart. They’re equipped with the tools to level a levee or two with gargantuan guitar fury, but they wisely let their unease simmer here instead. Many can light the wick and let the fuzz do all the work, but Mt. Mountain are working well with the texture of anticipation. On the previous effort that patience took place over the course of the titanic title track, but here the band are content to let the interplay between the ten tracks ebb, flow, and ease the listener into a meditative smolder.

On tracks, “Acceleration” and “Open Door” the band glows with an internal heat, steaming from every pore like a distance runner knelt down in the snow. They never let the heat hatch, though, keeping it coddled close to the heart and perennially pulsing. While the record never truly blossoms into the kind of maelstrom that listeners might be expecting, Golden Rise is far from boring. In fact, as that title might suggest, the record mirrors the slow euphoric slip into amber daylight that comes after a long night awake. Like fellow psych travelers Wooden Shjips have this year, they embrace the chaotic antidote and let the mellower side rule the day. I, for one, could use a good melt now and again.



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Charalambides

I’ve mentioned previously that Charalambides exist in a kind of ephemeral limbo between psych, folk, drone and experimental songform. Their music often conjures visions of rites and rituals more than concerts proper. There’s something elemental about what Tom and Christina Carter are invoking. Their songs are scarred by stone and smudged by the ashes of ceremonial fires. In the same way a camera can’t actually trap your soul, the ½ inch tape can’t hope to truly soak up their smolder and infect the listener the way a dusty basement gig can, but Charalambides: Tom and Christina Carter comes as close as any to achieving the impossible. The couple have been scraping at the raw nerves of folk for long enough that they’ve achieved elder statemen status and their latest proves exactly why they’ve remained vital for so many years.

The band itself has existed, even when relegated to hiatus, for well over twenty-five years. Often Charalmabides recedes to the background while Tom and Christina Carter have pursued solo ventures, external pairings and guest spots on the works of others. Amidst all this tangential activity, though, the idea of Charalambides still burns bright. So, it is fitting that the album is subtitled Tom and Christina Carter. It is momentous when those two halves unite, like an alignment of planets that can’t help but throw elements into disarray. The record doesn’t pride itself on brevity. Most songs stretch beyond the nine and ten-minute marks with ease, never in a hurry to halt the ceremony the duo sets in motion. Songs tend to fill up a space like firelight, warm and flickering, alive, aloof and perhaps a little dangerous. There are those that go to lengths to find their conduit to the thrum of nature, but they’d be wiser than most to seek out the Carter’s gospel.

The record sees Tom Carter ruminating on midnight guitar rituals – haunted and heavy as Loren Connors and intricate as contemporaries like Chasney and Bachman. Christina is no less an indelible presence on the record, her voice reaching for the upper registers like Linda Perhacs and Vashti Bunyan before her, imbuing their folk with a spiritual wonder that’s vibrating on the same harmonic hum as the nature around them. Its easy to tumble down the darkened paths of the Carters and get lost in the overgrowth and the dense earthen humidity, but there’s a light at the end that pulls the listener out of the dank. While that light offered escape, there are no promises about the changes that Charalambides inflict along the way. In a time ruled by wires and windows and incremental spikes in dopamine, the duo unleash an album to help it all crumble away – a dirt bath for the soul, an ego molt for the cult of culture.



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Charalambides – “Proper”

There are no real applicable labels for the medium in which Charalambides operate in. Like fellow Northeast luminaries Tower Recordings they’re rooted in psych and folk if you want to simplify, but you probably shouldn’t. They’re rooted in traditions of experimental songform and quite often delving into drone, but they typically tap into something ‘other’ and intangible. There’s a primal nature to their music that’s always felt like rites, spirituals without the burden of carved beliefs. This side of their songwriting is on full display on “Proper,” the latest peek into their upcoming eponymous LP. Over spectral tones the band’s Christina Carter intones high and holy, vibrating on a sympathetic tone with heavy metals in the surrounding soil. She cries for the Earth’s scars as if she can feel its pain.

The band’s Tom Carter expands on their process, confessing that the band “considers songs not as layers, but as stark utterances of elemental figures, the voids those figures define, and the unnamable emotions with which our minds fill the emptiness. Notes emphasize the silences between, loops pry apart tonal intervals, ghost-filled spaces open and slowly freeze shut as they fade to distant crackles. ‘Proper’ embodies all of these elements.” The new album is such a heavy, meditative piece that its hard to pry it apart into pieces, but “Proper” is a good entry point for the cosmic traveler. For the true Charalambides experience, the band is also taking this record on the road. Prepare to be ground into dust listeners East Coasters / Midwest settlers.

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Thee Open Sex

After some great tapes and a release on their own Magnetic South Records, Bloomington’s Thee Open Sex bring their hypnotic sound to Sophomore Lounge. The new LP tumbles headlong into cosmic synth with a German Progressive punch. Still anchored by the core duo of John Dawson and Tylor Damon (Damon/Dorji Duo, Circuit Des Yeux), the pair augment their sound with the help of members of Burnt Ones, Creeping Pink and Call and Response House Band. White Horses is a meditation on a theme that covers both sides of the new release. Creeping and claustrophobic, the record drops out into minimal space with a core of repetition offset by a grinding drive doused in drone.

The band brings in further help from Kosmiche master in his own right Cooper Crain, who helped the band record and mix this crusher. With Crane guiding the shading on the LP the band takes the listener through the twists of a towering build. They start out in calm space as they ease into “Pt. 1,” rolling steady strums against a steady lap of percussive patter. The tension mounts over the course of the track, but it’s the flip where they let loose the power of the White Horse. By the end of “Pt. 2” the band has fully whipped the universe into a sonic froth, engulfing the listener in a psychedelic storm that threatens from all sides. Its almost a relief when the chaos clicks to a close, the clouds part and sun trickles in at the seams of madness. Recommended listening at maximum volume to really hammer home the heights of tethered tension on this record.



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Bitchin’ Bajas / DSR Lines – The Encyclopedia of Civilizations Vol 2: Atlantis

Abstrakce Records continues their series of tonal explorations of ancient civilizations. Following the first installment from April of last year which saw Jonas Reinhardt and Jürgen Müller (aka Norm Chambers in full ‘80s synth mode) attempt their take on the cradle of Egypt, the series moves from myths to legends with DSR Lines and Bitchin’ Bajas exploring the lost civilization of Atlantis. As might be expected watery synths rule the day here, at least as pertains to DSR’s side of the split. Working through improvisations on Buchula 200 and Serge Systems synths, Belgian artist David Edren nails the shimmering quality of underwater sounds. This could work handily as a high-minded backdrop to an oceanographic exploration doc, though its just as easy to imagine “Panorama” or “Lineage” as the environmental ambiance of an advanced and submerged people. With “Deluge” Edren scratches through the serenity to add a feeling of rising anxiety – cracks in the glass, tectonic swells or the encroaching poisons of the surface perhaps. Whatever the worry, Edren makes it feel real and immediate, like a civilization running out on their years of solitude and preparing to fight for their way of life.

Cooper Crain and crew take a slightly different tack on the Bitchin’ Bajas side. Rather than capturing the feeling of life from the Atlantean side theirs drops instantly into a burbling scientific haze, capturing the whirring instruments of exploration searching for the legends that pockmarked their illustrated children’s compendiums. There’s a sense of swelling depth – present here through increasingly felt throbs of bass that undercut the sparkling wonder of synths capturing dazzling dials and flashing lights that wouldn’t be out of place in a ‘70s sci-fi epic. The Bajas nail a Kosmiche sense of wonder that’s just as liquid and dazzling as their counterparts on the flip.

Together the two sides make up a gloriously deep and inviting environment that nails its goal of evoking otherworldly enclaves under the ocean. Doing the listener one better, Abstrakce goes for high marks with packaging, adding letterpressed sleeves and a thick booklet exploring the myths of Atlantis for reference. All in all a gorgeous piece that’s proving exactly why the large format is worth the price of admission – physical and tactile to its core.




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Matt Valentine on Takehisa Kosugi – Catch Wave

I’m steadily working through the great wishlist of artists who have shaped the path of Raven for the Hidden Gems series and this week we land on another. Along with Erica Elder, Matt Valentine’s tenure in MV & EE and its various incarnations was instrumental to the aughts psych-folk wave. In his stewardship of the great Northeast label Child of Microtones he’s given a home to The Tower Recordings, Samara Lubelski, Ash & Herb and Dredd Foole among others. And just this year he’s carved out yet another classic with PG Six as Wet Tuna. So, it came to pass that I asked Matt to pick out a record that had perhaps eluded the grasp of the masses all these years. Coming on the heels of the news that Taj Mahal Travellers’ August 1974 has found its way back to LP, Valentine’s pick from the band’s Takehisa Kosugi – his 1975 album Catch Wave – seems quite fitting. See how this record found its way to his life and what impact it’s had on his own works below.

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Taj Mahal Travellers – August 1974

It’s been a hell of year for out of print Japanese psych classics. With Black Editions firing on all cylinders there’s plenty to love from the depths of the PSF empire but Aguirre’s creeping in with a classic of their own. The Belgian imprint has rounded up the cosmic float of Taj Mahal Travellers’ definitive album, August 1974, in all its double-wide glory. The band, known for their eclectic live performances and outdoor improvisations, took to the studios at Columbia Japan for four pieces stretched over four sides, each a deeper dive into electronic quaver, echoplexed violin, growled drones, and charring feedback. The record stands at the apex of Japanese improv and its tendrils wrap deep into the following decades’ younger players as one of the main influences of the new psychedelic front. Though it’s clear that the band had a heavy link to their German Progressive counterparts around the same time, effectively taking up the far east version of Kosmiche on this record, they give the proceedings a distinctly Japanese bent, taking what they’d acquired from a few EU tours and bending it to their will in the studio setting.

Aside from this record the only other official document from the band while active was July 15, 1972 a live recording from Sohgetsu Hall in Tokyo that got the official treatment as their debut. Following August 1974 the band would break ties, with most of the younger members dropping away from the scene and violinist Takehisa Kosugi continuing his journeys through experimental circles, even winding up with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company as musical director for a while. The spectral howl of the band’s heavy hitter rears its head as an influence in psychedelic circles to this day, so its great to have this back in an official capacity on the table. Highly recommended for fans from Ash Ra to Acid Mother’s and everything in between.




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