Don’t Know, Just Walk is the aural reflection of a spiritual struggle. The title refers to a Zen practice of clearing the mind, a technique Mike Weis applied to his recent struggle with prostate cancer. This is no simple practice, yet those who succeed are able to achieve a sense of transcendence over physical, emotional and intellectual matters. It is said that the Buddha allowed the parts of his body to depart piece by piece until nothing of the physical remained.
Music sometimes offers a similar effect, especially that as meditative and transportive as this. Sound samples are inadequate in conveying the scope of the project. The 22-minute opener, “The Temple Bell Stops”, is a religious experience. The outer shell is comprised of loops: gongs, organs, changgo, radio waves, enough to convey a spiritual sense. But the inner shell – the dropping away of the self as one first listens and is then immersed – is the heart of the composition, as the attitude is the heart of the illness. When one unlatches from the body, one might ask, “What illness?” When one loses one’s self in tribal rhythms, one might ask, “What song?” This music began as a means of escape, and now provides that very same avenue. This was therapy to create, and is now therapy to experience.
In order to inspire such an effect, trance-inducing music must possess enough internal strength to engage the listener, yet still be able to “get out of the way”. The listener must wish to disengage by sinking into the heart of the sound, rather than to disengage by detaching from the sound. This is a fine line, yet Weis walks it well. The field recordings of “But the Sound Keeps Coming” offer a different sort of invitation: nature as reminder of continuity and scale. We are part of something larger, defined by some as an ecological kingdom, to some as a spiritual kingdom, to others as both. The opportunity is available to pass from “I am not my illness” to “I am not I” to “. . .” Don’t know, just walk.
To lose one’s self may also be to find one’s self. When the “I” comes back into the equation, we are reminded that the artist chose to create rather than to fall apart. Fiercely human and generative, Weis balanced the impact of the disease (and treatment) with his own declarative statement. The closing improvisation with The Norman Conquest provides evidence of the man behind the music, the intellect behind the illness, the self who was lost in the creation of the album yet who can be glimpsed again on the other side ~ thankfully, the other side of the creative process, and not the other side of the spiritual divide. Sweep aside the story, the man and the illness, and the album still stands. This music can speak for itself; we simply wish to amplify it with words. (Richard Allen)