It's that time of year again: the time where I remind everyone just how rapidly consciousness has been evolving in such an amazingly short period of time. The good news there is that the entire point to technology is to serve art. We'll figure it out eventually. It should be...

The idea that the multiverse is more akin to an art project than a science experiment (or an art experiment, if you're so inclined) is one of those Occult themes that typically gets dismissed by both overly scientific and religious types alike, even though it quite inarguably resonates now more than ever. One of the stranger aspects of human psychology that we essentially avoid touching in typical academic or spiritual discourse involves the fact that your average person now consumes roughly a hundred thousand times more art in a given year than they did even a mere century ago. We used to rely on mediums like galleries, plays, symphonies, and libraries to dispense our art, most of which weren't super accessible to people who weren't wealthy or close to an urban center. Now the fact that the internet and cable television beam recreational distractions into our homes 24/7 seems almost like a trivial afterthought.
A lot of the problem with viewing the universe as being comprised of matter comes with the idea that it's devoid of conscious experience somehow. More and more, little by little, we're starting to wake up to the insane limitations of this philosophy. Renders people humorless if you ask me. Nothing adds up, which creates profound existential desperation resonating throughout the collective psi-grid of humanity. There is no explanation for why anything happens, so we instead focus on how things go down in obsessive detail. Not to knock this approach, as it creates order by combining with the mystical chaos of internal infinity. Too much mystic psychic sizzle and you'll get torn to shreds, but when you look at only shared perceptual experience, you're editing out the vast majority of reality. It's all dark matter through those eyes. Endless blacked out pages on a declassified UFO report. What I've found is that by shifting models of reality interpretation just slightly from conceiving the world as being made of matter to one comprised from conscious experience, coherent macro concepts of conjoined narratives learning lessons throughout cycles of shifting lifetimes starts to take shape (which I talk about all the time on Facebook; friend me). When you start looking at things through the neo-Occult lens regarding the meaning of our existence as participants in a small cog of a much larger 5th dimensional art creation device, things begin to click into place on an even deeper level. Try it; it's fun. What works about this model is the fact that art is getting more plentiful and expansive by the day. Whether or not that was the purpose, that's what's happening. The average person now spends their time lost in a greater collective imagination in a way that wasn't even possible a decade ago. We've entered the era of the information addict. We're turning ourselves increasingly inward and tying together disparate narratives without asking why we're so unconsciously compelled to veer in that direction. I'm more helplessly entrenched than anyone, spending my time existent in my own celestial enclave of sonic enchantment. Fact of the matter is, more people are taking psychedelic drugs at this point in history than ever before. The loosening of the pot laws is just going to ensure that trend continues to spike upward. Unsurprisingly, this has created a congruent upsurge in fantastically brain-altering tunage. I can't even begin to keep up with it all, and I'm an obsessive music weirdo. For all intents and purposes, there are an infinite number of great albums being made every single year, but I'd say Joe Sixpack isn't truly aware of that fact. I can't imagine any of the records on this list sold a ton, which is sort of the problem and why you need geeks like me. Next time you want to trip out on the weekend rather than getting blitzed drunk, go pick up any of thesem and they'll serve to lift you on high rather than binding you to the lower dimensions. Now, I almost apologize, because there really should be more trip-hop and electronic freak outs on here in general -- that's where drug music is heading and has been since I was a kid. But I've listened to a lot of the higher profile releases this year and most of it was decent, and little of it struck me as sufficiently psyche-warping. I've got to dig deeper next year. I will say that Seattle's Debacle Records consistently brings the strange vibes (Editor's Note: See the mixtape they made for us earlier this year) -- and as if intentionally living up to our newly minted west coast weed city status, more great psychedelic albums came out of Seattle this year than ever, so this list is also a bit heavy on that because no one else is really talking about it. You've been warned.
One of the most peculiar things about living in Seattle at the moment is the fact that there are not one, but two ridiculously over-the-top psych rock divas here. I mean, what are the freaking odds? Of course, I've probably written about Midday Veil to the point of complete overkill by now, but you know, they continue to do weird shit that amazes me, so until that stops, I'll keep up with it. What I haven't mentioned is the oneiric excellence of their smoky contemporaries Rose Windows. The reason for that probably has to do with the fact that it took several years to congeal their debut album, The Sun Dogs, into existence. Although the band initially blew me away live due largely to the sheer concussive force of vocalist Rabia Qazi, it wasn't until the disc dropped in June (on Sub Pop Records, no less) that I truly processed the depth of songwriting and lyrical complexity going down in that camp. Highly recommended. As it turns out, this depth comes largely from the blazed mind of guitarist Chris Cheveyo, and as I learned when I caught up with him by e-mail, it's channeled primarily from deep meditative states. How do musicians initially trained in oppressive religious traditions end up twerking on stage with Big Freedia (that happened) and making cameos in upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson movies? Weed, that's how. Read on, true believers.
According to modern day magickians like Alan Moore, "Art is magick, because art transforms consciousness". By that definition, some of the world's greatest mystics don't ever actually identify themselves as such. In my world, Robert Pollard is probably the most potent of these closet sorcerers, unassumingly churning out tune after tune ad infinitum from his hometown of Dayton, Ohio. It's an unending supernova. No single rock musician has pushed the boundaries of the human imagination in quite the same way as the guy, who will most likely go down as the single greatest songwriter in human history (or by definition of taste, the most prolific at the very least; he's already kind of got that cornered).
The story of how I got into Pollard's (now reunited) Guided By Voices is a strange one, and as with everything regarding my youth, drenched in debauched sonic witchery. When GBV's absolute classic Bee Thousand finally brought national attention to the then almost entirely unknown band in the mid '90s (mainly due to the efforts of Matador Records), I bought a copy. Truthfully, I didn't like it that much after a few listens. I even most bizarrely remember driving around with my dad at one point and him mentioning that he heard a segment about them and their supposed "indie rock" on NPR and was curious. I put it on. Neither one of us got it. And that's sort of the thing you have to point out to GBV detractors. Even though I have nearly 40 Pollard-related releases at this point, I still don't like any of them until run through number four at least. None of it makes sense at all when it first hits me. I have absolutely no idea how he does this, but it's the sort of thing that's going to confuse the shit out of critics, myself included, especially in the information age.
 
Well, it's now past the supposedly prophesized Mayan apocalypse, and of course no obvious signs of eschatological judgment have been wrought down upon us, which was much to be expected. There is something else we need to address though, before we can just write this shit off for good. If you were paying any attention to what those of the neo-spiritualist ilk were saying for the last decade or so, the conversation always involved a shift in consciousness rather than a rogue asteroid raining fiery death from above. Nobody said it'd be instantaneous.
 
Prophecies regarding a sudden massive shift in the perceptual limitations of our species always struck me as being beyond improbable. Whereas I'd be the first to admit that more of us these days are getting turned on to the higher cosmic functionalities of our brains, I'd also point out that it's probably little more than a numbers game. There are more people, period. I'd wager that for every turned on occult-dabbling tripster, there are two new closed-minded evangelical sex repression nutsos. Occultist super freaks just don't proselytize, and they probably blew their money on drugs and albums rather than bribing politicians, so there's that. Our society still revolves around boring after all and will for some time to come. What the fuck are you going to do? But it's not like all hope for a revolution is lost, the times -- they are a-changin', after all. Terence McKenna foretold a spike in novelty leading up to 2012, and it's not like novelty hasn't been spiking. The great singularity might have to wait, but technology has opened up consciousness to a new array of bizarre potentialities, the implications of which we can only barely conceive of at this point. At the heart of all shamanistic extra-dimensional informational summoning rituals lies the evolution of language from spoken word to projected internal telepathic metaphor, the language of our dreams. Meaningful scenarios projected from mind-to-mind, manifesting as direct experience. It's where we're headed with all these interconnected smart phones, tablets, and such. A picture is worth thousand words and now we can send each other videos instantaneously with our shiny new synthetic telepathy. Videogames continue to increase in complexity replicating alternate reality scenarios in our heads ad infinitum. Think of how rapidly our lives have changed in comparison to our parents' and even our grandparents' generations. Your everyday world can now be filled with an increasing array of deliciously magickal shenanigans. Marijuana has now been legalized in two states, one of which just so happens to be my home state for the last 11 years: Washington. This is the biggest victory in the war of consciousness I've seen in my lifetime, and something I never saw coming as a cynical 18-year-old stoner. What no one's saying about this matter is that one of the fundamental tenets of Western occultism involves a focused practice of weed-based sex magick, which is now totally legal. People are going to figure it out eventually. Combine that with a wide array of art-summoning gadgets, and you're well on your way to re-programming yourself into the next age psychic stratosphere. In the next fifty years or so I'm sure we'll debate whether or not 2012 was the beginning of a widespread shift toward a higher order of knowing. Again, these things take time. People have been fighting for pot and gay rights forever, and the defenses have finally started to crack. LSD in next. More importantly, the fact that we're finally starting to recognize the environmental nightmare brought forth by our materialistic insanity is more than a good omen. I know what's been shown to me. We've dug ourselves a hole that we can only fly out of through a psychedelic mindgasm portal. It's where we're headed. The environment's going to force our hand on this one. The UFOs aren't going to just stop lighting up the skies, the storms aren't going to stop hitting and then where the fuck are you going to turn? Sorcery, that's where.
Say what you will about 2012, but since consciousness is comprised of linguistic information, the idea of a coming apocalypse in itself propagated some rather delicious undercurrents of sound rippling through the Akashic record this year. I've never written more than a top five list in my life, but when I was thinking back on the insane amount of mind-bending albums that dropped in the last 12 months, I was kind of in shock. Most of this stuff's fairly obvious, at least in my world. Was it people like Terence McKenna and his mechanized Timewave Zero prophesies, inspiring people like Grant Morrison to write the great Invisibles hypersigil, that summoned this record deluge of psychoactive soundscapes into motion? I have no idea. Did the Mayans get in every band's head and subconsciously encourage them to bring their A game in 2012 as it might be their final chance? Whatever happened, it appears a software update embedded itself into our collective psyche and we went berzerk. An aspiring mystic could use any one of these mind-warping albums to put a hex on their internal mind tunnel and help elevate our collective superstructure heavenward. One might now use these recorded sound patterns in conjunction with the aforementioned pot based sex tantra quite legally in a hip music town like Seattle if one were so inclined. I've been told by the gods that it's a very "time safe activity". Reach for the stars true believers, or to quote Seattle's THEESatisfaction: "Let the musicians, be your physicians."
 
The other day I saw this graphic on Facebook: And it occurred to me that I got the promo for Sandrider's debut, what, about a year ago? Seriously? Holy fuck? When I thought about the slew of other releases I'd gotten from Seattle's Good to Die Records in that span I kind of couldn't believe it. Typically as you get older, time speeds up -- but in regards to this action, the exact inverse was happening. It felt like this had been going on forever. Quite a lot of fantastic shit from a label in its inaugural twelve months or so. Since I don't want to get yanked from the distribution list, I figured I'd better earn my keep and write a retrospective here.
Truth be told, despite being a lifelong fan of loud rock (I grew up in the freaking ‘90s), I must profess my profound disappointment in how incredibly trendy craptastic thrash metal became in the early ‘aughts. I know nu-metal was heinous and a backlash was obviously necessary, but I guess I just grew up listening to shit like Barkmarket, Drive Like Jehu, Cop Shoot Cop, and Soundgarden rather than Slayer and Titanica. Slayer have a good song, I get it -- it's just never been something I geek out on in anything more than small doses. All in all, that stuff strikes me as sort of dumb-fuck-white trash-y a lot of the time (not that there's anything wrong with that, just not my vibe). As Kim Thayil stated in a recent interview with regards to Soundgarden: "We've always tried to explore how to make this really heavy, aggressive music without sounding like a bunch of knuckle-dragging meatheads.” Exactly. Which is why I think Good to Die Records is resonating with a lot of folks so far. It's all loud music, but none of it succumbs to cookie monster/chug-a-chug metal genre clichés. Also, let's face it; to this day, you still can't read an out-of-town article about a Seattle group without grunge coming up in some capacity, even if it's about a lesbian trip-hop. What most people don't conceptualize is that because of the supposed "grunge explosion” in the ‘90s, crap tons of artsy people moved here, and a lot of them brought an amplifier-worshipping, booze-chugging blue collar spirit with them in droves. The fading mirage is what attracted them in the first place, often subconsciously. The word becomes flesh, as they say. What are you going to do? Ever since I've lived in Seattle, which has been over a decade now, there's always been a thriving scene of stoned underground agro super freaks. So leave it to an unabashed Pearl Jam fanboy to point out to us all that music louder than louder than love not only never went away in the Jet City but also spread to Portland and just kept spitting out kids.
To follow are my top five albums from Good To Die's first year (or so… excluding Sandrider; methinks I've covered them enough already).

 

Liars continue to compel me to no end. Truth be told, with these days and their compulsive relentless onslaught of auditory information, I almost expect to get sick of a band after album four or so. So I downloaded Liars' new album when it came out, but only listened to it a few times before I found out I was going to be interviewing them again. I then decided I should probably rectify that and listened to it like six times in a two-day stretch. Holy shit! WIXIW is a freaking classic which finds them again refining their prime directive of reinventing their prime directive, which has always been their forte. Six straight albums of genius. Not many bands can pull that off. This one's more aberrant but still uniquely them. Basically, they use more computer beats and effects than usual – kind of what you'd expect a band to do circa now. Difference is, Liars were always kind of doing that, so it feels completely effortless. Oh, how it owns. I had the good fortune of catching them live a few weeks back and had my mind psychically ass-handed to me by the sound druids in the sky. Liars are one of the few bands I know that you can definitely say are better live than on record, that still actually make great records. There are plenty of bands that excel face-to-face but can't pull it together in the studio, ever. The way the bass amplifier worship reverberated through their new beat-heavy cuts brought a sinister vibe to sound, rendering the whole scene that much more exquisitely delicious. When they dropped into the punkier cuts from albums like Sisterworld and their self-titled third disc, there was more raw power per inch being blasted from the stage than most metal bands ever conjure forth in their faux demon-worshipping careers. A ton of acts are using pure volume these days as a way to mask underdeveloped songwriting chops, but Liars do it right. Frontman Angus Andrew talks about that and other fun shit like dreams below. Dig.

 

Liars – WIXIW Teaser
"'Wish you' is a familiar and universal sentiment of longing and hope, but when misspelt becomes uniquely shrouded and difficult to interpret, which in many ways is representative of our music and the songs we wrote for this album." -- Angus Andrew, on the album title WIXIW

 

Whereas Seattle still seems to be lagging well behind places like the Bay Area and Portland as far as potent psych rock goes, it has long been a haven for underground knob twiddlers of the more adventurous variety. Years back, there was a regular, mainly noise-themed night at the Baltic Room called No Tomorrow, that basically died due to lack of interest or attendance. I went to quite a few of those and you could generally count on a turnout of roughly four people. I'm sure you could cite factors like shows being on the hard sell on Sunday nights, but I think you'd also have to address the harsh noise aspect of the whole endeavor and how a lot of times that might as well be chick (and gay guy) repellant. Unless I'm in a bad vibes or demonic purging type of mood, even I get fairly bored with endless swaths of monolithic pedal howling. You've got to soften me up before you head fuck me like that. But these things never truly vanish into thin air; they just get pushed down to subterranean levels and then eventually sprout forth anew as a burgeoning seedling destined to bear the strangest of fruits. And so, a new and hopefully regular experimental electro night is born called Motor, curated by Sam Melancon, proprietor of the always compelling Debacle Records.
Seattle, WA @ The Comet Tavern - June 13th, 2012 LIVE SHOW REVIEW CONTINUED BELOW

 

If you even remotely keep tabs on the news cycle these days, it's easy to get bogged down in horrifically menacing thoughts of the world falling apart at the seams. The American military industrial complex has nearly doubled in size over the last decade, and it was already a ridiculously bloated frivolity. We continue to rape the environment for our own selfish expansionary agenda of warped materialism, with little respite in sight. There are no spiritual leaders of any real consequence despite the obvious need. The stupidest people with the least resources continue to have the most children, and their billionaire overseers encourage them to take great pride in their own shameless ignorance. And each time I think I've seen the lamest lowest common denominator pop culture moment possible, all I have to do is wait five minutes and something else will creep up knocking my faith in humanity down a few more pegs. It can get worse than Jersey Shore, and does. What to do, then, with all this bleakness constantly lurking in the outskirts of our collective unconscious? A true mystic can take even the darkest of human plotlines and shine the impenetrable light of our higher spiritual destiny on them, illuminating the hidden beauty in the seemingly most hopeless of scenarios. Which is where an artist like Chelsea Wolfe excels. She manages to take the unrelenting horror of her apocalyptic dreams and effectively channels it towards transcendent catharsis. I caught up with the enchanting Miss Wolfe recently by e-mail to chat about how exactly she pulls this off so effectively as well as her admiration of Ayn Rand, amongst other things. Read on, true believers.