Delusions of Safety
Premiere of the new Garden Portal batch, plus Colin Fisher, Wau Wau Collectif, Greycz/Powers/Rolin, Damon Locks, C. Lavender, and more!
Once again, it’s Bandcamp day and once again I don’t have any kind of guide or list for you. But obviously anything in this issue or previous issues is well worth your time and money on this holiest of days in March. And yet again, I’ll be yammering on about great tunes and stuff I’m grabbing over on Twitter, so come say hello. There’s some cool stuff coming out today, though, so I’m looking forward to digging in.
Nothing new on The Jewel Garden today however, but use code ‘odyssey’ for 50% anything and everything. Thanks for the support over the past few months! Big issue today, let’s get into it…
Garden Portal launches a new tape batch into the garden on March 26th and every Friday leading up to it, we’re going to premiere a video from each release. Very stoked. Up first is Peter Kris whose No Language For The Feeling double cassette + photo zine is an absolute peach. Kris made a lasting impression on me with last year’s Everything Possuelo Brought To The Table, and based on “The Role of the Kachina,” this is going to dig that hole even deeper. “The Role of the Kachina” is intimate and claustrophobic, a buzzed-out lamentation on a world forgotten. Check out the beautiful video from Katrina Ohstrom (or find them on Instagram) below.
Next week, we’ll have another video to unveil so stay tuned! In the meantime, check out Garden Portal’s past offerings and see what all is in the batch below.
Colin Fisher Reflections of the Invisible World (Halocline Trance)
Shuffling through Colin Fisher’s extensive discography is eye-opening and intimidating. He has done a vast array of work for countless labels, with endless collaborators, and in different styles. Chameleonlike in some aspects so that he can shapeshift and plug into so many zones, Fisher also has an uncanny ability to put his own stamp on whatever he’s involved in. The more of his work I’ve explored, the more I recognize his style and sound as soon as I hear him on something else. That he is able to walk that fine line in an almost effortless manner is a testament to the mountain of talent he’s perched upon.
Reflections of the Invisible World is his fifth, and best, solo effort. Built mostly around guitar and saxophone, Fisher builds a vast, immersive world that shifts the further you go along the intricate, vividly-colored path. He paints with a dense palette. On “Unchanging Awareness,” a river of introspective sax drones flit through the air, lighter than clouds while pitch-shifted guitars skitter across in the shadows. Interconnecting these two contrasting sounds is a common occurrence throughout the album. Fisher finds a way to hypnotically combine the sharp edges of guitar wail with the smooth jazz-infused sax sequences on the noirish “Double Image.” Darkened corridors and smoke-filled rooms have never been so inviting.
While Fisher’s sax work often shines brightest, I find myself continually drawn to his guitar playing. “Monadic Mirror” reminds me of one of my favorite guitar albums from the last 15 years, Pospulenn’s Sun People Sleep Walker, if it was coasting on a different astral shore. Bright tones bubble up from an underground aquifer, rising toward blurry shapes moving in the sky. Lamenting the inevitable collapse of the surrounding environment, Fisher cranks up the flanger and chorus to fatten up the underlying foundations, adding countless textural layers as the piece pushes higher and higher. With “Salient Charm,” similar zones are scavenged but the added saxophone softens the margins.
When you first see the cover for Reflections of the Invisible World, before you hear a single note, you get a preview for the journey ahead. Bright colors, indescribable shapes, organic backgrounds, and a hint of something psychedelic engage the part of your brain you need firing on all cylinders to truly get lost inside Colin Fisher’s opulent sonic maze. Reflections of the Invisible World is a magical place to be.
Wau Wau Collectif Yaral Sa Doom (Sahel Sounds)
You know what I can’t get enough of right now? Joy. Even if this week feels less bleak than a few months ago, there’s still so much downward pressure and heaviness that is trying to grind everything into dust. Senegal’s Wau Wau Collectif’s Yaral Sa Doom laughs in the face of it, tempting the fates to even try to blot out their beacon of light as they inspire and educate. Effervescent and lively, music like this is a shield against the darkness.
The story behind Yaral Sa Doom is well worth reading, and the transnational aspect of the album is important context, but the power of the music stands on its own regardless of backstory. Loose dub rhythms drive the bountiful title track that opens the album into bright, sunlit spaces. Don’t even try to stay on the couch because the positive energy requires you to get up and move your body. It’s not just about dancing, though, because when you close your eyes and feel the music flow through your blood and bones, this calm enchantment infects you. Suddenly, you feel lighter and more determined. “Yaral Sa Doom” means ‘educate the young’ in Wolof, but there are lessons for all.
That calm, pointed power is loudest on the quietly exquisite “Mouhamodou Lo and His Children” which plays out like a high life and jazz-infused conversational hymn between the aforementioned Lo and his children. Revelatory and entrancing, it’s like becoming part of a sacred ritual of jubilation. It transports you to a new world that you’ll never want to leave. Elsewhere, “Yaral Sa Doom II” finds electronic beats and hypnotic, celebratory chanting dancing together while the horns return before Wau Wau Collectif lifts off into the cosmos on closer “Legui Legui.” I can’t overstate how joyous and free Yaral Sa Doom makes me feel. What a revolutionary record.
Vapour Theories Celestial Scuzz (Fire)
Bardo Pond’s Gibbons brothers return as Vapour Theories with a scorching suite of soaring guitar anthems at a time when the world needs them most. With Celestial Scuzz, the duo is pulling music down from a higher place, channeling the sonic heavens into a living, breathing sonic aural monument. Shifting between mind-melting electric guitar blowouts and contemplative acoustic pieces, the album is a soothing, almost religious listening experience.
At its most dense, Celestial Scuzz configures itself into a sort of maximal ambient headspace. Opener “Unoccupied Blues” is huge. Dueling electric guitars push and pull in an attempt to light the path ahead. Both want to lead and yet both end up following as some greater, heavenly force takes over and the entire 13-minute masterpiece ascends to unfathomable heights. Lamentations on death and deliverance pour through the speakers like monolithic hymnals. I think about Killer Mike saying “I’ve never really had a religious experience in a religious place. The closest I’ve ever come to seeing or feeling God is listening to rap music” on “R.A.P. Music” and with “Unoccupied Blues,” I feel that viscerally. This is spiritual music in the truest sense. Sanctified fucking sick.
Impressively, the rest of Celestial Scuzz isn’t a disappointment at all. I have endless respect for John and Michael putting a piece like “Unoccupied Blues” at the beginning of this record. It sets one hell of a standard, but they’re smart enough to put together a narrative script that complements its mass with different moods. The meditative all-acoustic “High Treason” is the perfect come down; you can catch your breath and collect your thoughts before “Breaking Down (The Portals of Hell)” ramps the energy up again, digging deep into the Earth for a taste of snarl and dirt.
Celestial Scuzz feels like coming home. There is familiarity here, even comfort. I have seen these pieces put together in different shapes before, but not necessarily like this. John and Michael Gibbons continue, after so many years, pushing forward and finding new ground to burn down so that the ashes can rise in their wake.
Chloe Yu Nong Lin Pi Sound 琶聲 (Monoastral)
On Pi Sound, Chloe Yu Nong Lin unlocks new perspectives and possibilities for the traditional Chinese pipa and creates a stark, disparate world that is equal parts enchanting and scattered. Even using a fairly limited palette - she mixes in electronics as well - it is her intimate knowledge and skill with the pipa that drives the rich, chaotic soundscapes forward.
Technique is integral on Pi Sound. Lin improvises songs that flit between bone crushing and delicate, like leaves gently falling from a tree before someone comes along and torches what’s left. “Unacclimated” bounces between both sides as she lets notes hang for just enough time to shatter into a million pieces. Accented by sharp, gurgling electronics, it’s incredible what Lin can do with the pipa and what sounds she can pull out of it. Shards of concrete crash and clang in one instant while cavernous, reverb-soaked tones echo into oblivion. All of it depends on where the note is plucked, how gentle she presses down on the string, or some other less obvious approach to the instrument. It’s enthralling.
With songs like “Pitter Patter” and “Fluorescent Flow,” more traditional scales emerge from the shadows, only to be battered by fizzing noise and caustic, grating stabs of sound. Lin plays dissonant circular patterns on “BRB From the Moon” with the pipa while the electronics sound like glass circuits heating up underneath. Composition-wise, this album is densely packed and requires multiple listens to peel back. Even so, Lin’s electroacoustic space will always find new ways to challenge you. Pi Sound is an exciting exploration of breaking tradition apart at the seams.
Greycz/Powers/Rolin Beacon (Centripetal Force)
Jen Powers and Matthew Rolin have done a lot of fantastic duo work together in the past couple years and honestly the combination of hammered dulcimer and 12-string guitar is such a winner that you’ll find me bowing down at whatever altar they’re putting up. In the hands of not just skilled players, but astral travelers, those two instruments run the cycle, sounding like bright, warm light all the way into subterranean sonic rivers. As a duo, they have a subconscious, psychic connection that allows them to find these tight crevices where sound and stars align and navigate them to the point where the music transcends. On Beacon, the dynamic shifts slightly with the addition of Jayson Greycz on percussion, but the result is a different kind of mesmerizing.
Something about the combined resonances of the dulcimer, 12-string guitar, and how Greycz finds his own spaces to squeeze into and expand on makes these recordings feel tangible and huge. “Uphill March” treads in darkened waters before diving underneath and exploding into a bioluminescent spectacle. Powers is the keystone, keeping the pieces connected as dark blue hues beam into neon. Greycz’ playing is subtle at times, but knows when to push a rhythm harder, always adding an earthy quality to the shine. Dulcimer tones dance an intricate ballet, pushing in opposite directions as Rolin’s guitar playfully chases, bending the whole track into a hypnotic anthem.
Cascading melodies on “Velvet” are the last sunset before the harvest; a cathartic send off for the ghosts that stay just out of reach. Cloud Nothings’ Dylan Baldi’s saxophone adds a layer of organic texture as Greycz lays down a metallic path for Powers and Rolin to wander down. Uplifting in a very real, very freeing way, “Velvet” taps deep into a relaxed, radiant vein. It’s almost the antithesis to opener, “Cracked Steps,” where tension and fraught emotions run rampant. Throughout Beacon, Greycz, Powers, and Rolin dig deep to take you to so many different places. It’s an exhausting trip that leaves you satisfied and ready for the next journey, ready to keep mining. Beacon is a diamond.
Damon Locks - Black Monument Ensemble “NOW (Forever Momentary Space)”
This video featuring a piece from the upcoming Damon Locks - Black Monument Ensemble album on International Anthem is a trip. Rob Shaw’s animation with Brian Ashby’s footage is powerful. If this doesn’t get you excited for what promises to be one of the year’s best records, I don’t know what will. Awesome.
Koen Holtkamp “Atmos 02”
Short but sweet track off Koen Holtkamp’s excellent new album, Atmosphere, out today on Love All Day.
KMRU falling dreams (Self-Released)
I will never get tired of these extended pieces KMRU keeps putting out. With falling dreams, his guitar is ready to break your heart. This sounds like being lost in an alien world where the oceans are grey and the sun is nearly invisible behind thick, dark clouds. You are alone. In the distance, as the aural waves shift, a figure emerges, moving slowly, snake-like toward you. KMRU builds the tension until it becomes tangible, and then pulls back slowly to reveal it was just a mirage and you are still alone. falling dreams is a haunting, beautiful piece.
C. Lavender Transient Seclusion (Longform Editions)
When I think about the concepts of sonic agency and building worlds through sound, C. Lavender is one of the first artists that come to mind. Her work is a conduit that takes listeners into new, uncharted zones. Whether that journey is introspective or moving through time and space, she is a guide. Transient Seclusion has a narrative flow that whisks you away through artificial landscapes filled with towering synth drones and soothing recordings of a gentle rain shower. Deep in the crevices, thick bass forms emerge like a long-slumbering giant, forgotten by time, awakening to a new world. Listening with focus and intention, Lavender’s music unfolds slowly, telling you whatever story you need to hear in this moment. Her work is always a balm. (side note: check out her new book!)
Astral Spirits announced a beer collaboration this week and obviously that is my jam. I did a beer collab a little while ago, but this is on another level. Check the playlist below (that Powers/Rolin track, holy shit) and if you are in Austin, get some beer!