HealeyIsland On Ponzi Bridge White Label MusicFrances Fukuyama's book The End Of History, published in 1992, went directly against Jacques Derrida's Spectres of Marx, predicting the global triumph of Capitalism and of the Spectacle. Greg Healey's music, as HealeyIsland, is the soundtrack of sprawling shopping complexes and virtual dating sites. This is the world predicted by Walter Benjamin, in his unfinished Passagenwerken (The Arcades Project): the birth of the pop culture, the beginning of the shopping mall, of commerce, of virtuality. It's the simulacrum's smug satisfaction that it is real, that it has it all under control, under wraps. It's a dustbin museum, full of never-ending card catalogs, everything dated and numbered, and we are told to go pilfer, go explore. But the museum is not real life; Healey remembers the outside, the sunshine and dirty gutters. Healey both pays reverence to and makes a mockery of high-definition, high-gloss early-'90s CGI utopianism in On Ponzi Bridge. Healey loves and hates the spectacle, and fights back with the keenest of British weapons: sarcasm.
 
In Hinduism, there is a term called Shaktipat, in which a guru transmits enlightenment by their very presence. Considering the places that some of us here at REDEFINE Magazine have voyaged to while listening to the music of Jon Porras and Evan Caminiti, solo musicians who are also collectively known as Barn Owl, we decided to harangue the duo with a bunch of questions about meditation, to see how much they had seen in such altered spaces. Barn Owl's music seems custom-made for the sweat lodge or meditation hall. As you listen to an amalgam of tribal percussion, temple bells, cosmic synths, and rustic American transcendentalism, you can practically smell the sweet sage burning. Their music knows no bounds, and as such, is a ritual that everybody can take part in. As increasing amounts of people and culture make demands on our time and attention, the ability to find a quiet, sacred space becomes essential. Barn Owl's portable ashram is a precious resource -- you can strap on a pair of headphones and find some space on a crowded train or a busy street to reflect. They encourage us to slow down, and find a little peace. Barn Owl's latest full-length album, V, is out now on Thrill Jockey Records. PURCHASE BARN OWL's V ON AMAZON
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANTHONY MASTERS; ABOVE ARTWORK BY EMILY FRASER

Jon Porras

"Into Midnight" from Black Mesa

Evan Caminiti

"Fading Dawn" from Dreamless Sleep

Barn Owl

"Void Redux" from V Barn Owl’s music has a way of slowing down attention, slowing down one's perception of time. Meditation produces a similar result. What are your intentions with putting music out into the world? Are they aligned with such qualities?
Jon Porras: Especially in the Bay Area, I feel myself trying to slow down in the wake of a fast paced, technology-based culture. Maybe this desire to slow down comes out subconsciously in our work. We’ve always gravitated toward music that builds slowly and thoughtfully, and I believe it can be powerful to feel big impact from subtle shifts in tone, volume and texture.   
Evan Caminiti: I approach music less conceptually than I once did and rely more on intuition and daily practice, embracing the strong moments of improvisation rather than trying over and over again to execute an idea based on concepts that don't resonate viscerally. Having a specific vision and knowing what we want to hear is crucial; I would say we always make the kind of music we would to listen to. I think slow music, deep music that taps into something beyond just entertainment, music that engages your body and mind in an all encompassing way -- that is really valuable and crucial. Personally, it is a major part of my well-being, and I hope through releasing music that it does the same for others. I find it to have a grounding effect, both energizing and calming.
 
Olafur Arnalds For Now I Am Winter Mercury Classics Imagine yourself walking down a deserted street. It's late in the day; the sky is dappled and mottled with clouds. The sidewalks are littered with the soggy remnants of December, slush and old receipts. Your thoughts uproot, displaced in time, remembering, projecting. A fine, chill mist falls; you turn your face to the sky, baptized like a thirsty young plant. For Now I Am Winter, Olafur Arnalds' fourth LP (and major label debut) is a poetic meditation on the coldest season. It sounds like a dubstep opera, with crisp electronic flourishes framing gorgeous orchestral arrangements (with the help of American composer Nico Muhly), and a trembling libretto by Arnór Dan Arnársson (of Agent Fresco), with a fragile ethereal quality similar to that of Sigur Ros' Jonsi. Tense minimalist strings counterpoint chamber music romance as Arnalds conjures feeling of regret, longing, desire, and wanderlust, with the final result being an elaborate reflection on the season, as complex and layered as real life. The record works best as a whole, but tracks like "Reclaim", "This Place Was A Shelter", or the title track serve as a fine illustration of this album's mission statement, and are fine places for the curious to begin. The music itself could be seen as the elements at work; biting winds, sleet, slush, and snow, while the operatic vocals serve as an inner dialogue.

 

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.

 

Ensemble Pearl Ensemble Pearl Drag City (2013 February) Comprised of drone merchant Stephen O'Malley (Sunn O)))); psychedelic guitar wizard Michio Kurihara (Ghost/Boris); white-gloved drummer Atsuo, (also Boris); and William Herzog (Jesse Sykes And The Sweet Hereafter) on bass, Ensemble Pearl is comprised of some of the brightest gems the drone metal underground has had to offer over the last decade. Many of them have worked together already, so it is an electrifying thrill to have them all gathered on wax, in the same place at the same time. For this self-titled release, the ensemble's press release expresses influence from: "Cosmic heavy rock sounds in an area between Link Wray (one of the songs is titled ‘Wray'), Earth "Hex", and early Tangerine Dream. Inspired by 50s-70s rock and contemporary music productions." The Drag City website speaks of "amplified rock drops and ripples, auras radiate and fade away into cloudforms, through which lightning bolts." The discerning listener can tell, before even dropping the needle, that what you are about to experience will not likely kowtow to pop conventions like hooks, melodies, lyrics. Before even taking off, you know that you are in for a journey – probably a vision quest.

 

Dawn McCarthy & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy What The Brothers Sang Drag City Can we appreciate older music, without it being retrostylized, sculpted and reconfigured for modern ears? Will Oldham, the right honorable Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, and Dawn McCarthy (of Faun Fables fame) seem to think so, dishing up thirteen slices of pure unadulterated Americana on What The Brothers Sang. In 2013, we are seeing an increasing trend of reissue labels, tribute bands, and artist-curated mixtapes (read Simon Reynold's Retromania for an exhaustively thorough look at the issue). It's just an exaggeration of what has always been going on in pop music: artists referencing bands referencing musicians. Any aspiring musicologist will follow the riverbed to the source of inspiration. The Everly Brothers themselves explored a similar theme, with their 1968 album Roots. On this most recent collaboration between BPB and Dawn McCarthy, the pair act as tour guides through The Everly's catalog, which in turn acts as a microcosm of American music of the '50s and '60s. The Everly Brothers themselves didn't write many of their hit singles, so Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and Dawn McCarthy end up paying tribute to Ron Eliot, Kris Kristofferson, Tony Romeo, and the duo of Boudleaux & Felice Bryan, who wrote many of The Everly Brother's first hit singles. They focus more on deep cuts than the obvious hits. There's no "Wake Up Little Susie", no "Bye Bye Love", no "All I Have To Do Is Dream"; some of these songs have only seen the light of day on ultra-rare completist boxsets. It seems like Oldham and McCarthy are enthusiasts and patrons of the Everly's art, and just want to spread the gospel.
Dawn McCarthy & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy – "Milk Train" (The Everly Brothers Cover) The Everly Brothers – "Milk Train" (Original)

 

They say that watching a master at work lights up the same regions of the brain as if you were executing the work yourself. That is to say – if you were to watch a tennis champion win Wimbledon with an EKG glued to your temples, it would be as if you were playing tennis yourself. Masters, experts, geniuses... pinnacles of human achievement. They show us what is possible.
Inspiration is essential in an age of uncertainty, when it seems like we're living at the bottom of a gravity well of despair, where everything is conspiring to dull your shine, to make you docile and easily controllable. When you feel like everything you see and hear is a copy of a copy of a copy, endlessly degraded, it is refreshing to find an unbroken thread of Illumination. Brilliance is not easily marketable. But then you have the Jerusalem Quartet, that have dedicated their lives to sawing away at wooden boxes stretched taut with catgut. It would be preposterous if it weren't so beautiful. The ambitious young quartet, who has been described by The Strad as "one of the young, yet great quartets of our time," have undertaken to perform all 15 of Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartets. March 11th, 2013 @ Lincoln Hall, Portland

 

 

Grouper is a dark star of the Portland experimental scene. She hardly needs any introduction, but her records have hypnotized international audiences for years, yet she remains somewhat aloof from the local music scene. She DOES pop up, from time to time, making sporadic and memorable appearances, often times at small, inexpensive events. Saturday evening's performance was part of Reed College's Art Week; an early, free all-ages show in Reed College's Chapel.

 

March 9th, 2013 @ Reed College's Eliot Hall in Portland, OR
The theme was REVERIE (a topic close to my heart), and this was their goal:
"We see it as an opportunity to consider the fluidity of the aesthetic and physical dispositions by which we situate ourselves. To experience REVERIE is to become dislocated, excised from the familiar and submerged in the irrational." -- from the RAW website