Leven Signs – Hemp Is Here Album Review

Leven Signs
Hemp Is Here
Digitalis (2013 Reissue; 1985)

Some records are made before their time.

Many things have changed in the 28 years since Hemp Is Here was first released – but even now, with an additional 3 decades of ethnomusicology under our belts, its thrift store Hindustani vibrations still sound freaky. This must’ve been entirely far out when it was first transmitted. You can hear strains of what would become hypnagogic pop, like James Ferraro’s funny globe-trotting uncle returning from Marrakesh with a stack of weird, sun-warped cassette tapes. Perhaps the finally time is right for Digitalis to rescue this one from the dustheap of history.


Leven Signs – Hemp Is Here
Album Stream

Hemp Is Here was initially archived on the popular pirate Mutant Sounds blog, which exposed millions of listeners to post-punk exotica from all over the globe, spanning the entirety of the recorded era. At Mutant Sounds, it would not be uncommon to find Aboriginal pygmy chanting next to a grindcore album, just down the hall from some French musique concrèt. In this way, Mutant Sounds was a microcosm of what it’s like to be a music devotee in 2013. Musical globe-hopping, and the emergence of the experimental underground, have paved the way and prepared our ears to appreciate the clockwork perfection presented on Hemp Is Here.

Presented here by the pairing of Peter Karkut and Maggie Turner, is a tapestry of Arabic percussion, cheap synthesizers, murmured vocals. It’s expertly sequenced, and this was during the analog era, when it was REALLY hard to multi-track. It’s clear that Leven Signs knew what they were going for, with a reckless mixture of confidence and exploration. What we’re left with is a party record from the interzone – a Moroccan bazaar leading up to a Byzantine cathedral, where an ancient ritual is about to commence.

Once you get a taste for funky, obscure records like this, there’s no turning back. Once the ergot and wormwood rush of corroded tape hits your blood, with the thrill of exploring uncharted musical continents, it changes you, and the way that you listen to music. Things that once sounded weird and cheap now sound new and novel; exciting rather than annoying.

This is the legacy of the music blogs, and post-punk mystics like Leven Signs, and this legacy is being carried on by the recent rush of outstanding reissue labels. The entirety of recorded music is now at our fingertips, and it’s hard to know where to begin. Quality blogs and music labels guide us, and Digitalis are exceptional curators. They’re really on to something with Hemp Is Here, about to blow the mind of a whole new generation.

Fans of Ariel Pink; The Skaters or any of their offshoots; Ghost Box records; old documentary soundtracks, listen up! This is your new jam.


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