What is the Aguirre label on about by picking up on all kinds of psych-inclined dronesters and (re)releasing their albums to audiences that might have been previously unaware of all these fundamentally strange sounds? As curator, the label seems to propose a kind of overarching renovation of a genre that was thought to be long lost to charlatans and clueless hippies, giving it back the value of questioning. If the initial opposition of ‘new age’ to any and all kinds of musics for their tendency to disperse and confuse instead of bringing about unity and clarity was adventurous in its time, its later development into synth-soundscapes of cheap magic tricks and healing formulas brought about its fall into corny kitsch, bloated with silly clichés of psychedelic electronic music. What was once a matter of opposition and experimentation, perhaps a matter of life, turned into the empty gestures of self-help, an anthology of niceties for those unwilling to see the world with nothing more than resignation (to the demands of success, of money, of hierarchy…). Aguirre has, perhaps, found a crop of artists indirectly related to those first experiments in tripped-out electronics, a whole network of sounds that might bring about a re-evaluation of what it means to make electronic music that recalls the religious retreat of the transcendental. No longer dealing with boring, half-hearted vagueness ultimately related to the mentality of business, music like High & Upon inverts the premise by erasing all traces of lineal ‘oneness’, and Mind Over Mirrors has no qualms to say “I’m Willing to Stagger”.
Where past music of this ‘aura’ follows a path that leads towards aural unity – a mass of experiences turning into one under the blazing sun of Reason – the new one tries to break off ever since its first step, revealing not a multiplicity of roads but the landscape beyond them. “I’m Willing to Stagger” opens up with a harmonium melody, of a very particular timbre, that is slowly fragmented into dozens of variations that interplay with one another for minutes on end, building up like a fractal that never ceases to break apart. As it turns into an almost inaudible drone almost halfway through, the melody might stick in your head, fragmenting still, making the practical silence seem ever more strange, ever more artificial. As the piece continues on with a reverb-like drone with synths that punctuate an illusory continuity (for, as ‘spacey’ as they might sound, they vibrate as well, and are far from pure), it blasts away the mantra: it seems to change so much in such a short time that it makes one question if it is even really repeating itself, producing a weird effect of stumbling patterns that might or might not be varying, like a piece of op art that introduces all sorts of doubts about perception. This is the questioning reintroduced to a stale genre, the uncovering of an anarchic stance towards the rigid narrow-mindedness of ‘turning into one’, allowing the spirit of drone to surface over the slow and calm electronic expanses.
“Harmattan Morning” follows suit, emphasizing the possibilities of collage produced by all those breaking shards of sound, offering a familiar ambience of dawn that is made of different bits of color glued together, much like a Sean McCann piece that offers up an uneven sensorial map of an imaginary place, bursting with sudden, unexpected changes. Like the wind current it describes, it flows in a rhythmical fashion that is nonetheless unpredictable; you know its name, it has always been there, but you can probably never determine exactly where it’s going once it’s rushed past your skin. It is a strange sensation, because its dispersal usually signals our own, a gradual dissolution, be it into the roads of cities, the interiors of buildings, or among the leaves of trees and blades of grass. It signals a connection to the world that goes beyond the usual ‘mother earth’ fare, a “Mountain Convalescence” that strongly repeats harmonium phrases until it all becomes underlined by noise. That is perhaps the second-to-last destination, an utterly undefined movement that doesn’t shy away from violence, a conscious step towards melodies that have no fear of going nowhere and everywhere at once.
In the end, albums like this are fine additions to anyone’s catalogue, and if one follows Aguirre as a sort of curatorial project of [insert something like ‘new new age’ here], it all seems to click together really well. It might be a productive way to interpret these releases, or it might not. We’ll see, but needless to say, each and every release has something great to listen to on its own. (David Murrieta)