brainwashed

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rootless, "docile cobras"

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This fascinating and inspired album is both the debut vinyl release from guitarist Jeremy Hurewitz and the first Flower Room album that is not a Matt Lajoie or Ash Brooks project.  To some degree, that union makes perfect sense, as both Lajoie and Hurewitz are guitarists with healthy appetites for improvisation and psychedelia, but docile cobras takes those appetites into some impressively inventive and unfamiliar territory.  While enhancing his acoustic guitar work with flutes, percussion, field recordings, and psychotropic electronic flourishes is nothing new for Hurewitz, this album is the fruit of a two-day collaboration with Mexican musician/folklorist Luís Pérez Ixoneztli, who oversees a "collection of priceless, one-of-a-kind, indigenous instruments from Mesoamerica."  This is not a document of a jam with some unusual instruments, however, as Luís Pérez made his contributions only after listening to the pieces and thoughtfully reflecting upon the ideal accompaniment.  Sometimes he opted for shakers made of dried cocoons or ancient clay flutes, but his instincts also led him to less traditionally musical sounds like "water poured into a tub" or "Shamanic breathing."  To my ears, the result feels like a pleasantly lazy jam around a campfire, except I am wildly hallucinating and a displeased owl god just reawakened to punish me for blundering into his sacred clearing.

Flower Room

The album opens with some improvised-sounding variations on a vaguely Spanish or Middle Eastern acoustic guitar theme, which is normally not a promising sign for me.  However, before I could start wondering if an actual song was going to appear, I was immediately drawn into the evocative and enigmatic backdrop of echoing drips and deep, whooshing breaths.  Eventually "lost at sea" coheres into a kind of desert-psych crescendo, as Luís Pérez joins in with some shuffling percussion while additional layers of guitar weave an intricate web of melodies, but it illustrates an interesting and unusual aspect of Hurewitz's aesthetic: he seems extremely disinterested in songcraft in any kind of conventional sense.  That said, the finished pieces each feel like part of an organic, complete, and a vividly realized vision, as the guitar parts serve as a thread guiding me through a phantasmagoric jungle of eerie, unfamiliar sounds pregnant with hidden meaning.  However, there is one song ("peculiar travel suggestions") that is structured and melodic enough to approximate a "single," as Hurewitz even goes so far as to include a tender piano melody.  Later, the rippling arpeggios of "shared consciousness" come within shouting distance of a conventionally structured song once more, but my favorite piece is the more loose, abstract, and epic "docile cobras."  As usual, the most exquisite pleasures are not the chiming minor key arpeggios that act as the piece's backbone, but the rich panoply of mind-bending sounds that bleed slowly into the tableau with maximum hallucinatory impact.  In fact, the piece even gets sucked into a still deeper black hole of psychedelia after I thought it had already reached peak mindfuckery, which is quite an impressive feat.  The album as a whole is also quite an impressive feat, as Hurewitz and Luís Pérez cooked up one hell of a vibrant and memorably unique deep listening experience.

Samples can be found here.

Last Updated on Sunday, 11 April 2021 21:25  


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