Peckinpah - Smoking Peace with a Burning Crow
Lotushouse Records Keith Boyd 7.21.7
Frozen moments of Peckinpah in cinematic glory. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid in a halo of bullets smiling. Thick Karo syrup blood spraying into the Western daylight. It seems to hover in midair for much longer than gravity allows for. It lands with a dusty puff, only to be absorbed by the thirsty earth.
Violence and charm drip from most of Peckinpah’s frames. The loneliness and humanity of his characters are given such cut-out-like emphasis they become mythologized into archetypes. As the aforementioned is true of Sam Peckinpah’s cinema, so it is also for Bruce McKenzie’s new project, Peckinpah’s music.
This music has a grainy sweetness that comes at you over time. It’s not the open sweetness of sugar, say; that’s far too upfront. This kind of sweetness is the type you experience after chewing for a while. Like the West African stimulant kola nut, it starts off incredibly aspirin bitter. It’s only after allowing your senses to adjust that you find the subtle qualities of the sweetness underneath. I hear this achingly ephemeral quality on The Band’s Music from Big Pink. It also swells out of moments on the Flying Burrito Brother’s Gilded Palace of Sin. I guess I’m saying that it’s a Western American birthright, this grainy hands-on, bittersweet mindstate, and that Bruce has hereby claimed his inheritance.
I don’t want to give you a false impression here, folks, this is no country record. Or maybe it is, but it’s like no country record that’s ever been made before. It’s a country record strip-mined of any twang, structure, sentimentality, or multicolored Nudie suits. It’s a country record made by an Indian saddhu on the banks of a holographic Ganges aboard Skylab. What I’m referring to in my comparisons is the warm humanness, yet alien otherness, of tone, not a specific genre. Drones are the predominant modality here, and they are truly transportive. On the opening track, “The Sleeper’s Kiss”, a harmonium is our locomotive and spiritual guide through the soundscape of a clanking and clattering void. This Bardo journey is a long deep breath after being underwater. Is it possible that Bruce McKenzie has figured out a way to be simultaneously still and in motion? If you’ve always thought that such a thing was impossible, tune in and be proved wrong.
The intimacy of the two-part “Cicada Lotus Pond Field Recording (Visitation and Possession)” is almost erotic. The sound, deep swirls of soft wash, lays down in the folds of your brain and spins a tale of insectoid glory.
These shimmering sounds are transmissions from some Western Dream Time, and as such, carry their own logic and function, neither of which is directly obvious or the same for everyone. This is music as mirror. Each listener will come away with their own messages. Some will be entranced with their minds kissed by such grainy sweetness. Others will become lost in the layers and, like impatient travelers, constantly be waiting for a never-arriving, yet always present, hook or riff-like payoff.
Beautifully packaged, with silkscreened cover on heavy-stock black paper, the care and the craftsmanship shines through. I think it’s important to make room in one’s life for the nonlinear. The linear nature of so much art and music walls us in and renders us slaves to a submissive trance in which we come to accept all sorts of nonsense. Taking the time to experience the open-ended, steady stream and circular is to open up your mind and spirit to Wild Life. Smoking Peace with a Burning Crow is a non-point-specific interlude and respite from the mundane. Leaning into its cycles and folds is a heady and wonderful experience.