Posts Tagged ‘Matt LaJoie’

Best of 2020 (so far)

2020’s been a hell of a year, and one that doesn’t feel like definitive statements do it justice. Still, no matter how many seismic changes have occurred during the year, the music has been a source of solace and inspiration. The fact that so many artists have had their livelihoods upended gives it a slightly sour note, especially for some that may have been working years to let these statements out into the world. Keep hitting the Bandcamp revenue shares to support artists and labels directly. If you need some suggestions there’s quite a few below. Keep in mind that ‘best’ is by no means definitive, but these are some of my favorites. We all know that Run The Jewels hits hard, but someone else is gonna tell you about it better than I ever could. Still lots to look forward to musically in the second half, but the first part of the year has been a bounty to be sure.

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Ash & Herb

Maine duo Ash & Herb (Ash Brooks and Matt Lajoie) have been incubating a haven of psyco-delic bliss in the Northeast for sometime. Under their Flower Room imprint they’ve housed releases by both Matt and Ash solo, combined, meditating as Starbirthed and interspersed into different tessellations of the two — with focuses ranging from Kosmiche to folk. When combined, and flying under the Ash & Herb banner, the results can vary stylistically. Their last single hit on a Cosmic Americana choogle that was well received around here. Perhaps someday they’ll return to the grooved graces of that particular valley, but for “Roughin’ It” they travel outward, into the gaseous ether that clings loosely to this Terra Firma.

The pair recorded the bulk of the album live in spaces around New England and it showcases them pushing their improvisational itch into the furthest reaches of headspace harmony. The album kicks in with two tracks that buzz with a writhing energy — insistent hum n’ thrum that resolves into cosmic glances. They soften the approach as the record works its way in, not quite finding breezy but settling on a swayed hiss for “Mudra of Creation.” The song, and really the record on the whole, has a raw quality to it. There’s a vulnerability that feels like it hovers between bootleg live lightning and homegrown private press goodness. The playing is untethered, yet fluid. The band’s not wrong to label some of the nodes here Frippian in their approach and we’re all at the benefit of the mutable magic that takes place over the extent of this tape.

Highlight “Ascension Tea” rides the invisible airwaves through the small bones of the skull, reverberating the senses and looking to lock down the lysergic energy that we all need to get us through the day/week/month at hand. The sounds slip through the soil of our consciousness feeding the soul with a refreshing dose of damp psychedelics and free zone simmer that’s vital when the air fogs with spring’s sop. While this would all be a bounty on any day, Matt and Ash don’t let the spring run on just this release alone. Alongside this they offer up a new EP from Ash that’s every bit the equal to the zones traversed here and a bevy of outtakes too. Plus a stash of Herbcraft sketches that give context to Wot Oz while standing up well on their own. Check the label’s site and get digging into all that they have to offer. Stream the whole album below before it’s out tomorrow.



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Ash & Herb – “Ascension Tea”

This weekend saw a few great droplets of psych seep out into the ether after hours. In insular times the vibes emanating off of the Flower Room camp are definite essentials, and word that Ash & Herb have a new one out is well received around here. Though I’d been looking forward to some more slow-shucked boogie cookers like the band’s last single, the sunlit ashram psych of “Ascension Tea” is a welcome unwind as well, though it sounds like from the album description that the former may be in order as well. Matt Lajoie is just off of a shimmering solo LP, so its amazing to see that his duo with partner Ash Brooks has this much quality quiver on hand already. That pair never sleeps and when they do its certainly laced with the kind of hallucinogenic dreams that this cut conjures. The new album is on the way shortly, May 22nd, in digital and tape form. Get it marked on the calendars and if you aren’t already, keep Flower Room on your radar as they’ve been doing some great live sessions and the constant stream of meditation fodder flower out of that corner is ambitious to say the least.




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Matt Lajoie

While I’m not likely to do this any extra justice after Jesse Jarnow’s taken a crack at it, a four-day weekend away left this off of my rolls at the end of last week and its more than worth raising more of a fuss about. Lajoie’s been a constant fixture here at the site from Starbirthed to Ash & Herb, Herbcraft and more, but his solo slices come into clear view on Everlasting Spring. The album baptizes guitar in the crystal clear waters of the Kosmiche spring and we all come out born anew because of it. Matt sets the songs adrift on waves of repeated phrasing, mulling figures in circular sway, letting the listener lose themselves in the cascades of notes that fall all around. While this is gorgeous in the room, the headphones hold even more power as they lock the world away outside of the binaural bliss that seems to surround from all sides.

There’s a languid, late morning movement to the record. It’s an embodiment of the unhurried state of mind. Each note holds onto the listener with a subtle comfort, like hands on shoulders in times of pain. In the same regard it only serves to give shelter, shade, and understanding. Lajoie’s creations build a sanctuary of sound that doesn’t feel the need to push or pull with strong arms. Instead the movement of the record is measured in millimeters, but each tiny breeze he stirs up guides the fairest hairs on the skin towards a more enlightened existence by the time the record whispers to a close. Matt’s created a beacon of hope, lighting the path away from the malaise and malign of modern times. Should we all find ourselves inside its beam, we might just make it out, or at the very least make it through another day.



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Matt Lajoie – “Everlasting Spring”

Matt Lajoie is another artist who never seems to rest. After a packed 2019 that saw offerings from Starbirthed, Ash & Herb, and his solo debut, the artist follows that solo record with his second as we tip-toe into 2020. Under the title Everlasting Spring, both the album and the track seek to bring an eternal vernal lushness to the world. Matt’s playing is often more spiritual than some of his fingerpicked brethren, and he showcases the wonder and patience that are his core on this track in particular. The song sparkles with a crisp dewiness that’s cooling, comforting and rejuvenating in a way that wipes away the worry that’s been accumulating in the wrinkles of 2019. The song inhales all the negativity in the room and exhales a peaceful surrender to joy. With the aid of loops and a soft blanket of reverb, Lajoie turns the acoustic ripples of this track into kosmiche meditations that pick up the yoke from Manuel Göttsching and Popul Vuh. Fans of either should find quite a lot to lay into here. Knock this one high atop the pile of 2020’s most anticipated, its shaping up to be an essential release.




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Ash & Herb

Flower Room, the resident home of Matt LaJoie and Ash Brooks’ musical musings, often boasts a treasure trove of small press releases that are of the blink and you’ll miss ‘em variety. In between larger statements the pair populate the label’s Bandcamp with live documents and offshoots in every direction under the Ash & Herb, Starbirthed, ML Wah monikers, among many. One of the latest gems arrives via live recordings from Ash & Herb’s Spring 2018 tour, and makes up the third installment of their live “In Now Time” series. While it’s not a full-on psych-folk boogie breaker in the mold of their outstanding “Salt Lick” single from February, it does capture the band’s narcotic float quite nicely. The set was recorded in a living room in Columbus, OH, but the sounds feel like they could have filled up a void twice that size.

Apparently, their set for the tour was using a cassette backing track that they tossed for the night and untethering from the percussive yoke lets the band wander all over the inky night, swirling like smoke signals into the wanting sky above. Ash’s vocals zone out into wounded, wooded rites of passage, giving the set a heavier, darker turn for a spell, before they bloom into a two-part psilocybin sojourn. “Fruiting Bodies” sparkles to the point of shimmer and closer “Cap & Stem” settles the whole set into a steamed calm as it pits a bit of twang against the dominant drones. Ash & Herb have a huge catalog to contend with but its been great to keep track of the current modes with this live series and it’s highly recommended digging through vols. 1 and 2 as well. Pair this one up with a recent Starbirthed tape and the night’s set to transcend expectations.



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ML WAH

There are many sides of Matt Lajoie (solo, Cursillistas, Herbcraft, Ash & Herb, Starbirthed) but the ML WAH name is dedicated to a more devotional direction. Following 2011’s Ashram To The Stars, Herbcraft took a heavier tack, pulling more from Krautrock and the space spectrum, but Deep Roots is here as a spiritual successor to that album’s higher consciousness. There’s a deep body vibration to the album, shaking the chakras until the soul lights up like an ember. LaJoie’s hymns are covered in ash, ambling through the streets in search of solace, euphoria, or enlightenment. A clatter of percussion wakes the wound and LaJoie singes it shut with the slow melt of his guitar on “Santal.” Things take another turn towards disjointed stomp on “Wallah Sound,” where keys plunk like a kalimba over the heavy hop of percussion worked up to confront the spirit’s misgivings.

Though certainly rooted in psychedelics, with shades of Ash Ra Temple or International Harvester this record also owes a debt to the permeating pulse of Don Cherry. While the Wah doesn’t rock the horns like Cherry might, there’s certainly more than a touch of the mysticism that informed Organic Music Society clattering through its bones. This is one for the late-night meditations, with the cool breeze blowing against the baked-in glow of warm firelight. If you’ve found purchase in LaJoie’s past works (no matter the output) then you’ll already be on board for this, but for the free jazz congregation and the psych temple travelers, here lies an album that brings together the fold for a blissful bout of devotional thrum. Recommended for some deep listening.



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