Malcolm McClain: Visual Textual photos by K. Nielsen text by E Nielsen High from a Harley ride, I opened the doors at Ronis Fine Art to find a secret treasure. Dave Hampton’s curated show of McClain’s works sparkled as they bathed in the morning sun through the storefront windows. Selected notebook works from the 40’s through the 70’s highlighted pieces emphasizing and incorporating text. In the text about the show, Dave states, “we are reminded that writing and drawing are fundamentally the same.” The words in the art remind me of Cage’s use of words to express and score music. These pieces struck me as authentic elements of an American canon, loved by so many.
The show also included the premier of a sound piece by Charles Curtis. This holistic addition of sound added immensely to the overall experience. The text for the sounds was the exact text represented in the McClain pieces. Five tape decks, spinning endlessly, emitted the voices of Curtis and others who knew the artist. The decks were placed in various parts of the room and greatly enhanced the ethereal spirit of the gallery. As the visual art incorporated text, so did the music, as spoken word. We are reminded that speaking and singing are fundamentally the same.
The intertwining of the visual and the aural incorporated the small room into a charged atmosphere, becoming the art. The intimacy of the small notebook pieces combined with the loving hand of Mr. Hampton’s delicate touch insured an experience truly worthy of the morning.
Crosby Stills and Nash at the SD Civic by E Nielsen 10.2.14
Storming out of the gates, Crosby Stills and Nash dimed the volume knobs at the San Diego Civic. For the first hour of their two and a half hour set, the eight piece band blistered the speakers in the room with super hot vocals and scorching guitars. Seemingly, the whole world knows every song they rocked as the crowd was on fire right with the band. The audience worshipped in a spiritual reverence that was mutually and equally reflected back from the super group. That was an extreme pleasure to be a part of.
Of course with tickets going for $50 to $100 (a far cry from the ‘74 tickets of $7.50) there weren’t many kids in the audience. The crowd looked like the affluent downtown set, a sort of exponential Belly Up crowd. I could close my eyes and imagine Woodstock and the setting in NY. It sounded much as I would imagine it to sound then. But, we were in San Diego, these guys look like my father in law, and I could buy a cheese and cracker plate with a glass of champagne for 20 bucks at the concessions.
I could make a setlist that would come as no surprise. Without a doubt the highlights of the show were a super soul-filled rendition of Guinnevere, with just Crosby and Nash. The harmonies and dynamics were so tight and sweet, it was easy to forget that both of them are in their 70’s. The effect was heightened by the fact that there was only one guitar and two voices after the first set was so hot.
The best part of CSN are the harmonies and acoustic guitars that often get lost in the giant band sound. Of course the band was amazing! They had a five piece backing them up for most of the show and they all sang, so the sound was gigantic! But, CSN doesn’t need gigantic. In fact it’s the most touching when the subtle sounds of harmony and emotion can be felt. In the whole ‘less is more’ thing, you can hear the muted strings, the buzzing acoustics and the quaking voices. But, the band...every piece was impeccable, especially the guitar playing of Shane Fontayne and organist Todd Caldwell.
High Mountain Tempel - Gnosis from Quietus
Listening to High Mountain Tempel's new album Gnosis I am reminded of a recent staging of Shakespeare's The Tempest at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During the show, the character of Ariel – the spirit enslaved to the magician Prospero – performed various forms of stage magic, often involving complex card trick and other sleights of hand. The production – co-directed by Teller, the silent half of the magic duo Penn and Teller – offers a variety of illusions, one of the most remarkable being the character of Caliban, who is played by two actors entwined. They speak in unison and roll around the stage, their arms and legs taking turns moving their bodies from place to place.
In the original play, Prospero is at first portrayed as a diabolical wizard, his powerful magic able to conjure storms. But slowly we see him as a man seeking redemption and justice, and by the play's end, "abjures" his "rough magic". Prospero admits the desire for that kind of knowledge will persist, but vows to refrain no matter the cost. He even releases Ariel from his service. But Teller's direction does not release the audience from our own need for magic, our eager collective willingness to suspend disbelief and be awed by the illusions on stage. By combining stage magic with a play about supernatural magic, Teller exposes the single most important truth about the occult. Its power lies in the imagination, particularly as it is made manifest between the audience and the magician, the tribe and the shaman, the master of the lodge and the apprentice.
All this is to say that Gnosis is a brilliant evocation of a magical ritual that pulses between the deeper spiritual desire for, well, "gnosis", and the recognition that the staging is everything. This fifth outing by the team of Eric Nielsen and Keith Boyd invites other fascinating musicians into their sacred fold, including Isis Aquarian, one of the wives of the late Father Yod. (A recent documentary, The Source Family, is very good primer on the family, their beliefs and music, and the mercurial character of Father Yod himself). Other initiates into the Tempel include Bruce McKenzie from Buzz or Howl, and Higashi Hiroshi and Kawabata Makoto from Acid Mother's Temple. The latter mellow out their typically noisy psychedelic flourishes in favour of building up the album's sacred space.
The opening track 'Processional (An Invocation to Thee Angelic Sister) is an invitation to disarm and disrobe and to don the band's garment; a collage of keyboard, guitar, synthesiser, and voice. This is not a fire on the top of the mountain. There is no thunder here. The song is a vaguely melancholic entreaty to suspend disbelief and let the magicians perform their illusions. At the outset, a voice gives warning: "Here come the birds to take it all away."
'The Wormwood Parchments (Navigating Cameron's Star)' gives nod to the 1955 film The Wormwood Star, a micro-documentary about Marjorie Cameron's work, the artist and sorceress who was married to the rocket scientist/occultist Jack Parsons and was an actress for Kenneth Anger. The song is a haunted ambient piece. There are ominous spirits at the edges, and it furthers the sense that the listener is not only an observer in the proceedings, but a participant. Like the legerdemain of The Tempest, the magic is what is happening between the listener and the performers.
Similarity with the next piece. In 'Once Upon a Golden Mountain' Isis Aquarian's 'Alpha crone incantations'--underscored by piano--sweep away the infernal sensibility of 'The Wormwood Parchments' and offer something that is akin to the feeling of taking a deep breath after you have realised how long it had been since you had one.
The fourth song on the five-track album, 'Root Food, Deer-Mating (Moon Psalm)', a guitar-heavy landscape, is another foreboding moment. The procession has seemed to move outside into the the dark of the woods to see if Pan will make himself known. It opens with a flute as a call to the god, and when he does appear, the music reflects exactly what one would expect to feel in the presence of the divine; pretty terrified. The final song 'Vu Lan Ghost' is named after The Ghost Festival, a Buddhist version of All-Hallows Eve and is something like a seance. Here, disembodied voices are channeled through some kind of electro-acoustic machine. The Ghost Festival is ancient, but High Mountain Tempel are still modern-day musicians.
As I have written before, I am deeply skeptical, and maybe even a little annoyed, with occultism that is too earnest, too literal. Umberto Eco once wrote that it was important not to "turn metaphysics into mechanics", and the best way to avoid that danger is to rely on art as the means of whatever occult expression you are trying to make. Too much earnestness in music can also come across as cloying and a little contrived, but High Mountain Tempel are sincere in what they are doing. There is no humour here, no ironic nod to the listener, something you might find on a Ghost Box Records release that wear their pop culture influences on their sleeves. But High Mountain Tempel don't have to. It's as when the audience watching Ariel perform his feats of magic during The Tempest. We knew it was an illusion but it didn't matter. Theatre is by definition a kind of magic, originally a rite where the audience encountered the gods directly, knowing all the while it is actors in costume. Gnosis is a ritual for the imagination. All you have to do is wait for the first song to start and allow yourself to be spellbound.
High Mountain Tempel - Gnosis on Lotushouse Records Listen to Processional (An Invocation to Thee Angelic Sister) It’s been a long gestation on the quivering meat wheel of creation. In the dust and stones of a dry riverbed seeds cracked, opening themselves to any deluge. When the flood waters finally came everything became the Mud of Chaos. Now swollen with water the seed burst forth with roots and tendrils seeking both Earth and Sun. High Mountain Tempel Rising!
Gnosis” is the fifth release from these seekers of sonic dissolve and drift. Tapping into their deep love of the Pacific, the Sierras, the Sacred Freeway Off-Ramps and the Emerald Tablets of California Mythology they have carved out new roads and new paths leaving Golden Ashes to light the way.
Tempel Monks Eric Nielsen and Keith Boyd welcomed many honored pilgrims for this voyage in sound and time. Kawabata Makota and Hiroshi Higashi from the impeccable Acid Mothers Temple joined in providing bowed guitars and swirling, hymnal synth lines. Alpha-Crone and Source Family Dragon Lady Isis Aquarian beamed in from Hawaii to breathe the Father Yod Family lineage into our hearts and minds. Charles Curtis blessed us with spacious and gigantic piano tones. Bruce Mckenzie, the Sage from high atop Mount Washington was as always the Koan Master and Alchemist gleaming gold amidst the ruins and molding clay into Golems. Leila Dear brought her artistic mastery, informed by the esoteric and geometric to Square the Circle for the cover art.
It was a wonderful collaboration spanning time, distance and space. This distillation we offer up with the hope of pleasing and challenging the listener. Listen deeply. Go FURTHUR.
Bruce McKenzie - Sings on Track 1 and plays Recorder on Track 4
Charles Curtis - Plays Piano on track 3
Isis Aquarian - Alpha Crone Incantations on Track 3
Makoto Kawabata - Bows Guitar on Track 4
Hiroshi Higashi - Plays Synth on Track 5
Mixed by Bruce McKenzie, Artwork by Leila Dear, Photo and Layout By Krista Nielsen, Mastered by Kenseth Thibideau
Recorded in the Upper Chamber of The High Mountain Tempel Oceanic Lodge and the Leper Colonies of Arrakis
Dedicated to The Ancestors, Pacific Ocean Mineral Spirits, The Offspring of the Sun, the Waders of the Slipstream, All Blessed Journeymen, John Muir riding the lightning, high above the world and in memory of Hetch Hetchy. Available at lotushouse.com
Chinchilla Reunion! from SDCityBeat
For the first time in nearly 18 years, long-defunct San Diego indie rockers Chinchilla are playing together again.
The band, which broke up shortly after the release of their debut—and only full-length album—101 Italian Hits, will play their first shows together since 1996.
Prior to a hometown show at The Casbah on April 26, they have shows lined up in Portland on April 18 and Seattle on April 19.
In a phone interview, guitarist Julie D.—who now lives in Seattle—says the three-date West Coast tour has been in the works for a long time, planned as a kind of celebration for her 50th birthday.
The group's been rehearsing together since November and re-familiarizing themselves with their catalog.
"Thankfully, all of our stuff has been recorded," she says. "So, we can listen back and relearn everything."
Since the band's dissolution, drummer Morgan Doctor moved to Toronto and has continued performing in different capacities, with bands like The Cliks and Lights, and singer Siobhan has been performing in Echo Twin. Julie D. and bassist Krista Kansas haven't been playing music professionally lately, but Julie D. says that once they started rehearsing together again, it felt natural to get back into it.
"Playing together at practice made me realize how much I missed it," she says. "The type of magic we always felt playing together—we all felt that again. People who are fans of ours, I think they'll like it. We're into it."
The group will sell merch at the reunion shows, including some vinyl that was pressed while they were still together. And the band's complete discography is now available to download or stream at chinchilla1.bandcamp.com.
Raagnagrok – Man Woman Birth Death Infinity
Somewhere along the continuum of MAN WOMAN BIRTH DEATH INFINITY you
will see, hear, feel and find just about everything. Given enough time all of those
polarities and seemingly opposite states resolve themselves into a fluid mosaic of
With this collection Raagnagrok have given us a sonic tone bath. An Alchemical
mirror that both reflects and absorbs. From the opening rubbery wobbles of
Elephanta Gateway to the expansive drift of Infinity, this album both delights and
Raagnagrok is an aptly named neologism of a name. Ragas are composed to enhance
or reflect upon everything from Hindu religious epics to the passing seasons to
the quality of light during various times of day. They follow set patterns but give
ample room for both repetition and variation. “Grok” is a Robert Heinlein word and
concept from the watershed Sci-Fi novel, “Stranger in A Strange Land”. Like many
words from other languages, “Grok” bumps up against the constraints of English in
terms of direct translation. It is a word that condenses multiple nuanced meanings
but perhaps the closest approximation is to understand and deeply encounter
something. The “something” could be a piece of art, an idea or another person. To
“Grok” something is to reach a point where the boundary between observer and
observed dissolve and a point of unity is achieved.
So what does this tell us about the effect and experience of Raagnagrok’s music?
It tells us that we can expect a solid dose of open-ended sonic reflections with
deep layers to get lost and found in. Although each piece stands on its own I highly
recommend giving this album a listen from top to bottom. Zali Krishna and Mark
O Pilkington manipulate all manner of electronic tools but never forget to let the
human element in. There are sitars and guitars winding and weaving through
Roger Deanesque landscapes. My only wish from this album is…MORE! I want more
Raagnagrok music to accompany me through my own forays and journeys with
MAN WOMAN BIRTH DEATH INFINITY.
Beggars - S/T on Lotushouse
1. Ghost Coyote
2. Eureka, My Love
3. Lullaby de Bourbon
4. 2-3-74 Floating
5. Midget Decapitates Clown
1. Will We Call It Love
2. Queen Anne's Lace
3. Follow Me Down
4. Berserker's Boogie
5. My Strangest Lover
6. You Should Love For Now
2CD set with Glen Donaldson, Bruce McKenzie and Eric Nielsen. Steven R. Smith guests on 3 tracks. Recorded and mixed on Mt. Washington in LA and in Ocean Beach in SD. CD 1 mastered by Glenn Donaldson. CD 2 mastered by Yoshida Tatsuya.
Maquiladora's Eric Nielsen and Bruce McKenzie joined forces with Skygreen Leopards' Glenn Donaldson to form Beggars, whose double-disc Beggars (Lotushouse, 2013) is a tour de force of ecstatic Eastern-influenced freak-folk. Mostly these pieces lean towards the traditional song format, although inevitably deformed by the musicians' pedigrees.
The ghostly hyper-dilated drones of Ghost Coyote are imbued with quasi-Morricone western-movie guitar twang and even harmonica. The sweet lullaby and the trotting pace of Eureka My Love as well as the romantic honky-tonking Justine (with a refrain a bit reminiscent of Dylan's Blowing in the Wind) hark back to the heydays of country-rock. 2-3-74 Floating evokes the martial laments of the young Neil Young although diluted amid discordant guitar jamming and lulled by waves of funereal vocal harmonies. Berserker's Boogie is a lively and poppy almost-bluegrass tune. They even intone the singalong Queen Anne's Lace with drums, banjo and all.
Thankfully, the spaced-out yodeling of Lullaby de Bourbon (memories of Aoxomoxoa-era Grateful Dead), the free-form quasi-jazz guitar and vocal interplay of Will We Call It Love, the seven-minute dreaming psalm Big Pink Sun and its sublimely disintegrating coda, remind us of what Maquiladora are best at. The 23-minute Midget Decapitates Clownis an ambitious concerto for suspense and agony. Far from being just a droning piece, it piles up sonic event after sonic event, producing the trancey effect out of a multitude of traumatic sounds. The chirping and tweeting that accumulates half-way into the piece decays into a nervous organic filigree and dies away in the most cryptic manner; one of the high points of Maquiladora's career.
Beggars - S/T by Naysayer at KFJC Released from Lotus House Records, this is psych country/psych folk territory. Heavy on acoustic guitar with background mandolin, organ and lots of harmonies, these songs are about lost relationships, missed chances and old secrets. They sound like they should be sung around the fire pit outside an old shack in Topanga Canyon. Dusty, weedy, afternoon sunlight that blurs the vision. Turn it on, kick back and look directly into the sun.
Track 5 of CD B is a 22 minute deep listening style excursion.
Earthling Tempel - Pilgrimage To Thunderbolt Pagoda by Aquarius Records
Not sure if this is part 4, or just the first in a new multi part epic, hardly matters, what does matter is, this is another glorious expansive collection of meditative psychedelic abstract dronefolk ambience. Every High Mountain Tempel disc we're reviewed thus far has gotten played to death here, and this one doesn't appear to be any different. Well, at least in that respect. In one distinct way it is very different, HMT are not going it alone this time. They've assembled a pretty impressive collection of sonic alchemists and musical conjurers to help with this ritual, Isis Aquarian from the Source Family, Charles Curtis from La Monte Young's Just Alap Raga Ensemble, and two crews from the UK we've never heard of, Earthling Society and Astarism, but even with all those cooks in the kitchen, HMT and friends have managed to weave another dark minimal masterpiece, all hushed barely there guitar shimmer, drifting whispered vocals, delicate crystalline melodies, dense swirls of piano, warm swells of tape hiss, mysterious voices and field recordings, whirring organ, bowed steel strings... so lovely.
If the liner notes are to be believed, two of the tracks feature Earthling Society on their own, and those tracks do sound different, much less free and sprawling, a bit more structured, like seventies UK acid folk, swirling and melodic and quite lovely. The final two tracks find the two groups in full on collaborative mode, and the gears shift to something much more space rocky and Hawkwindy, all blissed out and heart-of-the-sun, until the final track which is a strummy, delicate, moody chill out closer, a sort of dour doom folk drift, that makes a perfect ending.
Super nice packaging, silkscreened oversized 4 panel sleeve, white on black, with the cd-r affixed to the inside. And of course, SUPER LIMITED!
High Mountain Tempel - The Glass Bead Game by Aquarius Records
Part three in the ongoing series of limited cd-r explorations from mysterious drone combo High Mountain Tempel, and like the two before it, the band continue to delve into some murky sonic underworld, again presenting loooong songs, each separated by brief sonic interludes, this disc seems feature more actual vocals, the opening track features a processed voice, that sounds a bit like throat singing, or a Speak And Spell, intoning some arcane message, interwoven with long drawn out tones, and a thick ropy buzz, super dark and intense and atmospheric. Elsewhere sampled voices surface, there are bits of chanting here and there, all peppered throughout the disc. But even with the extra voices, the focus here is still on dark, lugubrious, extended dronescapes.
The sound of High Mountain Tempel is probably closest to Expo '70, as their various permutations of dronemusic seem to have a definite krautrock vibe, that gives the sound a sort of spaced out quality, and a subtle propulsion, but unlike Expo '70, HMT seem to have a distinct Eastern influence, much of the music is meditative and subtly dramatic, a bit soundtracky, and some of it sounds like it could be Japanese. Especially the way field recordings are incorporated into the sounds. Giving everything a definite texture, some of it sounding like it was perhaps recorded live in some hilltop temple. Which we would imagine is the idea.
Not sure what else to say actually. This is indeed fantastic, brooding and malefic, but also shimmery and dreamy, sonically it has much in common with the first two installments, so definitely check out those reviews to read more about their 'sound'.
Needless to say, fans of the drone and folks into the current crop of cd-r soundscapers will for sure dig this, but like the other HMT discs, this is more than simple drone music, this is ritualistic alchemical soundwork, one can almost imagine stumbling across a group of cloaked figures huddled around a fire in a forest clearing, tossing various powders into the flames, causing the fire to change color and cast beastlike shadows on the branches above, and this is the sound filtering through the forest like a black moonlit fog...
SUPER LIMITED of course, packaged beautifully in a foldover silkscreened sleeve, gold metallic on red on the outside, black on red on the inside.
High Mountain Tempel - A Screaming Comes Across The Sky - The Faultline Scriptures
by Aquarius Records
Record number two from this mysterious drone-kraut styled duo. Their last disc was a huge hit around here, so we were pretty thrilled to get our hands on this one, a logical sonic extension of the first, delving deeper into some murky tripped out twilit soundworld.
The disc opens with shimmering clouds of gongs and cymbals, whirring and sizzling, suspended over a deep distant rumble, a delicate intro to a record at once hypnotic and lovely, dark and dense.
The record is arranged into three epic tracks, interspersed with short sonic interludes, ranging from field recordings of crickets, looped chants (Elizabeth Clare Prophet if we're not mistaken), spirituals and mysterious liturgical songs, whirring drones, and backwards percussion, but it's the long tracks where the duo get to spread out, let their dense soundscapes sprawl.
The three long tracks sounds like movements of a greater whole, clocking in at 15 minutes, 11 minutes and nearly 17 minutes respectively, each rife with creepy delayed vocals, churning guitars and smeared chords, roiling muddy whirls, which often dissipate leaving streaks of fragmented melody and haunting slowed down voices. Buried amidst the drones and whirs, are lullaby-like melodies, skittery percussion, streaks of grinding distortion, hidden voices, more field recordings, thick swaths of cavernous rumbles, little bits of electronic glitch and lots and lots of low end buzz.
Packaged in a fancy navy blue fold over sleeve, screenprinted in white ink, with a photocopied insert with liner notes and song credits.