Whenever someone says ‘new age’, the most common association is to the banality of well-being magics and charlatan leaps of faith, a feeble, silly, and false confrontation with the cumbersome forces of reason and realism that configure every landscape into machine-gun visions of instruments and data. No longer is it a sign of psychedelics and throwbacks to mythological metaphysics, to the music of the likes of Popol Vuh and Amon Düül, a futuristic ideal of reaching an end to each and every cycle. The breathtaking view from an infinite chasm has, like many other things, degraded into quartz pendants and pyramids. But the gradual loss of its utopian thinking has not meant the complete dislocation of its legacy, which infuses the bloodstream of drone and which, for the last few years, has seen a resurgence of music made for mindscapes, an aid for letting dreams of wholeness sculpt the world into wild new forms.
However, unlike its predecessors, this generation doesn’t leave the presence of technology understated – it pretends a unity not by means of moving backwards in time but by moving so far away forwards it’s impossible not to think of our ruins, of a planet that extends as far as the unconsciousness can touch, a moment so unimaginable there’s no choice but to see it in the here and now. As in Eric Arn‘s Point of Fissure, our machines do not break the view of heaven but enhance it, amplify it in ways unthinkable before the massive growth of cities, and let us embrace the possibility of an accord with nature; in that faraway future the struggle against the natural is over, not under the terms of a peace treaty but under those of a significant recognition of equal grandeur, an honorable collaboration in which every promise of the past is at last realized. It is in this sense, perhaps, that Arn lets the noise of drones and electronic manipulations meet with the ‘organic’ element of acoustic guitar playing, a combination built not from tolerance but from understanding. When they both meld into single tracks, its implications might indeed seem apocalyptic, but only for the mindset in which their relation is one of varying degrees of domination.
Behind such technologies, of course, is an entire way of thinking, sensing, and feeling that also modifies any and all knowledge of the world. The front cover for the A Story of Rats & Bird People split perhaps tells us of such backgrounds: diagrams and drawings in a classical style that might remind us of how geometry is dependent on as many scientific principles as it is on symbolic interpretations, on how such conceptions penetrate reality and make it from without. If the cover suggests that drone is also a matter of space, and if we take into account the rich history that noise and even new age have when it comes to rooting sounds to places, then the conception of music as perception-altering, as inherently psychedelic, could come into play as drones wash over our eyes with myths (“The Cailleach and the Ewe”) and juxtapositions (“Composition II” – one would assume musical, but which could also very well be pictorial, even sculptural) of spaces we commonly understand as neutral. No longer such, the transmutation begins, and we listen to the mountains hum with mathematical equations, the rotation of the earth in symbols as powerful as those of deities, creating movements within mysteries.
This is where we enter the more directly ‘spiritual’ dimension of this multi-review, under the guise of Pandelindio‘s Fuego y Soma, enacting the ritualistic side of first-gen new age with a ferocity capable of burning through all kinds of contemporary boredom. This is quite more straightforward than the other two in its approach to psychedelics, immediately recognizable as such: it begins with field recordings (?) of birds, as if entering a forest, followed by a strings-led mantra that pushes into the meditative rhythms of the wind upon birds’ wings, the slight movement of trees and their acknowledgement of a presence. Whilst in the grip of nature’s ‘long duration’ unity is reached, for time dissolves within the silences of violin drones and short flute melodies, and the possibility of perceiving anything as everything draws near, repetition driving the mind to open before the rediscovery of Nature. More subtle is Sashash Ulz‘s manner of making very similar points; muffled electronic sounds encounter instruments in distant, echo-filled places, the ruins of the future. “Marble Pillars and Trees in the Night” evokes this technologically enhanced dialogue, in which all the sudden bursts of activity (a tree branch falling, an animal running, an insect resting on a petal) acquire rhythmical coherence, not by themselves but by the workings of perception, connecting all of it into a totality of secret domains in plain sight, history unfolding within myth instead of myth unfolding within history, reaching a consciousness that coincides texture by texture, feeling by feeling, with the entirety of the world.
It’s no wonder that the label that has published these albums is Feathered Coyote, one of the representations of Aztec god Tezcatlipoca himself, the god of existence-as-is. These albums point at existence-as-it-must-be, and in doing so refer to deep currents in our own time, currents that await discovery in order to flood the world with holistic desires, the coming of the new, and hopefully last, sun of Aztec mythology. Alongside other labels such as Aguirre, it’s opening the way for artists that still see a promise in the krautrock and psychedelic music of the late sixties and early seventies, a kind of project that remains unrealized and which can be rescued from the hands of the ideologues of wellness, irredeemably in the service of individual fragmentation and the mere utilization of imagination. Of course, if you just want your share of not-so-noisy drone and psych, don’t let my rant deter you from the greatness of their catalogues. Happy listening! (David Murrieta)