Daniel Higgs - Ancestral Songs Holy Mountain
by Keith Boyd 10.27.6 (Editors note: Most Highly Recommended)
Despite their overuse as plot devices for countless episodes of "Star Trek" and "The Twilight Zone", parallel universes do exist. I'm not going to get all wound up in either a scientific treatise or a religious debate here. I'm not concerned with any sort of physics based description of reality and neither am I willing to defend this thought against Biblical, Koranic or Torah scholarship. I'm more concerned with simply conveying a version of the truth, my truth I suppose I should say. A bit of learned wisdom, won after spending a little time wandering around this planet and thinking about it.
A general assumption most of us make is that "underneath it all" we are essentially the same. We feel that despite skin color, geographic location, family history and cultural norms we're all motivated by and looking for similar thing. Our American society is almost predicated on this notion. The corrosive and homogenizing influence of our meg-corporate nation insulates us against too much true diversity. Wherever we go we have the opportunity to buy the same meal, hear the same songs and drink the same latte. I suppose some people revel in sameness. There is a predictability and comforting essence to it that speaks of safety. Never mind that nature, in its every movement and system, avoids the stasis of monoculture. Never mind that uniformity of intent and action are both the purview of mobs and fascists. If we find safety in sameness then by God we're going to have it!
At first blush the popularity and access we have in the States to certain media might seem to contradict this. On any given night you can tune in to documentaries about the coming of age rituals of the Kalahari Bushmen. You can go to the store and pick up a copy of National Geographic and by flipping a few pages spin around the globe. But the rub is it's still a sameness being projected. Despite the plumage we see that the Papua New Guinea natives simply want the same creature comforts we do. We learn that regardless of what savage war zone they're growing up in, kids will be kids. The nice part about this process of confirming our suspicions is that it's cleanly. No need to get exposed to all those nasty intestinal bugs and just plain filth, the glossy pictures and edited footage tell us all we need to know. A quick jump from this of course is the impulse to enforce this sameness. Our government wields the double edged sword of military force and free market economics as a sieve which when straining an entire culture and country, yields maximum profit and obedience. A seemingly benign thought, that we're all the same, plays out as a world where we're willing to make everyone and everything the same. The problem with all of that is folks, it's just not so. We aren't all the same. People do want different things out of life and our underlying reasoning and motivations are so unique unto us that to force any other thought is to succumb to the above described paradigm.
While living in Africa I met a wandering cowherd named Sidi. Sidi and I had an amazing conversation one afternoon while sitting in the shade of a Baobab tree drinking some tea. I was asking about his life and at every turn my expectations were flouted. I asked about the hardships of a nomadic existence with no fixed home and he said he'd never want a home and how by not having one the whole world was his home. Furthermore he had nothing to worry about like a home owner. No messes to clean up no need to protect valuables against thieves. We spoke about food and I opined that his diet was a bit bland. He thumped his chest and said that since a child he'd only ever eaten 3 things; milk, couscous and cow's blood and for me to see how healthy he was. He also went on to describe in intricate detail the various flavors of cow's milk and blood depending on the season and what the cow was eating. Every notion I held as familiar or regular seemed to be rejected by Sidi. The more time we spent together the more I was forced to simply accept and eventually admire our differences. Rather than divide us they seemed somehow to expand the world around us and our acceptance of each other felt calming and just. It's just this type of process that comes to mind while listening to Donald Higgs's amazing new release, "Ancestral Songs".
Daniel Higgs is an artist who operates as a universe unto himself. The dispatches we receive from his specific domain; art, music, tattoos, poetry and music are so singular that they almost defy description. As the lead singer of post-punk freaks "Lungfish" Higgs has been churning out album after album of highly emotive music since 1988. In more recent years he has done many solo performances, art shows, put out an album of Jew's harp playing and now brought forth the ominous, stark and apocalyptic folk of 'Ancestral Songs".
Higgs's worldview is resolutely non-dualistic. Lucifer and Christ blend into one hermaphroditic "All Pervading Nameless Lord of Perfect Mystery". This deep acceptance and exposition of seemingly opposite forces produces a sonic and lyrical content with a tension both compelling and scary. The music produced here is a mirror to the lyrical reconciliation of opposites. It is at once folksy acoustic (Living in the Kingdom of Death ) and metallically alien (Moharsing and Schoenhut). This is a deeply bent and off-kilter music but it's delivered by such a sure hand that its power and singular truth are brought home all the more effectively.
I would classify this album as a kind of private or personal music. This isn't something to casually throw on at your next shindig and expect the kids to fill the dance floor. It's music with room for the listener's thoughts. With this space provided we have a moments pause to consider our sameness and our differences and the parallel universes that each of us occupies. This is music as the intergalactic and all seeing bagpipe of God. This is music as the all knowing vacuum cleaner of Shiva. As a stellar dispatch from the fructifying womb of myriad realities, it is a cause for celebration!