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.
 

As the mountainous ribs of southern Siberia, the republic of Tuva breathes with a culture of inherent symbiosis. The expansive region rests at the true heart of Central Asia, brushed by the ancient carcass of the Sayan Mountains that rumble alongside the eastern steppe, the rigid Altai peaks that hover over winding plateaus to the west, and the Mongolian border to the south. At this intersection of Asian lands and traditionally semi-nomadic cultures, a legendary form of music continues to cultivate creative expression, spirituality, and, through adaptation, modern experimentation.
The music of any region is the skin of its culture. Its texture, wrinkles, and colors stretch over flesh, bone, and spirit. Within the open palm of Central Asia, Tuva holds a musical tradition that has been quietly capturing the imagination of the world and which is among the most awe-inspiring vocal arts to have persisted to this day. Also known as overtone singing, and colloquially as khoomei, throat singing is a style of vocal performance that allows a singer to deliver two or more notes simultaneously, while the pitch is naturally controlled by the lips and throat. Overtone singing can be heard in many cultures: for instance, in some isolated regions in Canada's Arctic; within the Xhosa communities of South Africa; among the Chukchi; and in the memory of the Ainu art of Rekuhkara. Tuva's throat singing, however, is unlike any other in the world.
Jump to: 1. From the Lungs of Central Asia 2. Between Political and Folk Narrative 3. Transcending Place 4. Music as the Frequency of Spiritual Experience 5. Continuing Exploration and Growth Alash River, Tuva Republic. Photography by Konstantin Mikhailov
"For Tuvans, I would say, khoomei expresses thought within the field of sound. And that is why, for the majority of Tuvans — even those who do not sing but only listen — it evokes associations with the sounds of nature, while for the performers, as they sing, it would be native lands, mountains, steppe, taiga, and so on." - Choduraa Tumat, Tyva Kyzy
"Но у тувинцев, я бы сказала, хоомей выражается как мышление в звуковом пространстве. И поэтому у большинства тувинцев, даже у тех кто не поет а только слушает, при слушании возникает ассоциация со звуками природы. А у самих исполнителей при пении явная визуализация природы: родные места, горы, степь, тайга и т.д." - Чодураа Тумат, Тыва Кызы
 

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.
 

To experience Saya Woolfalk's work is to become immersed in a scientific folklore where biology and anthropology inform fables of utopia. In Greek, "utopia" translates literally as "no" (ou) and "place" (topos), and in a collaborative series with anthropologist Rachel Lears, entitled No Place, Woolfalk posits ways in which "no placeians" can more readily become a part of a utopian society. In her most recent development upon this theme, Woolfalk has incorporated a new element -- that of dual consciousness and foreign beings, via the narrative of a fictional species called Empathics. Through the use of psychedelically-colored exhibits, scientific slide shows, dance performances, and a very multi-disciplinary artistic practice, Woolfalk is learning how to use art shows to create utopian worlds in and of themselves.

 

Though they have long been manufacturing their own visual aesthetic, Seattle's Midday Veil recently enlisted the help of director Steven Miller and cinematographer Ian Lucero for their newest music video for "Great Cold of the Night". The final product is a dizzying take on spiritual death and rebirth, made possible by zombie-like witches and their "cannibalism" of a carefully-sculpted red velvet cake. Midday Veil's Emily Pothast and director Steven Miller take turns to offer their commentaries in the Q&A interview below, followed by a stream of the music video itself.
"The basic concept has been sort of developing for years, due to our interest in mythology, especially ancient mystery religions that involve sacrificing or dismembering a god/hero and taking him into the underworld in order to give him a secret awareness of the processes of death and resurrection." - Emily Pothast

 

The childish use of color and scraggly linework of Hamden, Connecticut-based artist Christopher Mir are misleading; if these works strike you as digital MS Paint drawings made by a youngster, you'd be dead wrong. Herein lies the most well-rendered chicken scratch you've ever seen, set down with acrylic paints and enamel, and full of fascinating characters, unusual settings, and off-kilter subject matter. In the full post, Mir offers some words about the inspiration behind a select number of pieces. Despite their simple and straight-forward presentations, Mir's inspiration is often rooted in current events and older artistic works, as well as symbolic and esoteric knowledge.
(9 IMAGES TOTAL) The Alchemist "This is based on an image from a book called Alchemy and Mysticism. In the original work -- from the 17th century I believe -- the man in the foreground isn't blue, but in the painting I wanted to make him into a Krishna figure or a water being. He's there to water the trees and put out the fire. The entire image is open to interpretation, but in my mind, the symbol of the tree refers to our own feeling of being grounded -- rooted within the body -- or of being uprooted -- lost in thought or egoistic delusion."
Mir currently has a solo show at Benrimon Contemporary in NYC (514 West 24th Street, 2nd Floor) through February 23rd and another next month at TMproject in Geneva, Switzerland (2, rue des Vieux-Grenadiers).
Shaman

 

Lansè Kòd (The Rope Throwers) 1996
Every year, Carnaval comes and goes across the entire world, tantalizing everyone with its fanciful costuming and celebratory antics. But beyond the tourist circuit of Carnival lies another Carnival, in locales with a connection closer to the festival's origins. Haiti is one of many countries that celebrates Carnival at their own pace, and over the course of many years, photographer Leah Gordon was able to capture the beauty of those festivities in Jacmel, a coastal town in the south. Kanaval is a black and white photographic series, true -- but it is, more importantly, a series on awareness, about culture, and inclusive of mythology. After this series was taken, Haiti suffered its devastating earthquake and Jacmel was completely decimated. Gordon's photographs, along with her heart-felt introduction to the series and the many oral mythologies passed down to her from carnival participants, can be viewed in the full post. Together, they forever capture a wonderful space in time and call attention to Haiti's creative and spiritual existence. We begin with a tale from Madanm Lasiren, which is just the first of many.
Madanm Lasirèn (Madame Mermaid) 2003

Madanm Lasiren Andre Ferner, 59 years

Lasiren is a spirit that lives under the sea and does mystical work there, she is a Vodou spirit, I dream of Lasiren all the time. That is the reason I do Lasiren for Mardi Gras. I chose Lasiren because my grandmother, father and mother all served the spirits, I love her & honour her. The baby that I carry in my arms is the child of Lasiren who is called Marie Rose. When I walk the streets I sing her song which goes ' I am Lasiren and I cry for Lasiren, when I work mystically in the night bad luck can come my way'. I prepare for Lasiren by putting on a hat, a mask and carrying an umbrella. I put on a necklace and gloves. This necklace is called Mambo Welcome, it is a fetish. Because Lasiren is a fish she has to disguise herself as a woman to be at Mardi Gras. My mask and hat cover her fish's head. And the dress she wears covers her fish's tail. The chain I wear is a sacred chain. Each year I change the disguise and fashion a new baby. In order to get inspiration I go to the place where the big beasts live and they instruct me how to do Mardi Gras. I have been doing this for 18 years. Before that I did another Mardi Gras call Patoko. This was a group of men who were dressed as women, with a nice dresses and high heeled shoes. We did a marriage between men and woman on the street. After that we had a group called the duck who carried brushes in their hands wearing blue trousers, white t-shirts, new sandles and a scarf around our waists. We swept the streets of Jacmel. I have always found a way of doing a Mardi Gras.
Kanaval will be on display for free at PHI Centre in Montreal (407, rue Saint-Pierre), from February 25th to April 27th, 2013. Opening night happens at 7:30pm on February 23rd, and its $175 ticket price (or a $400 VIP ticket) includes Haitian food, giveaways, and performances by Haitian dance groups, Haitian band Doody and Kami, and The Arcade Fire, who have a blog dedicated to their own trip to Haiti. All proceeds will go towards KANPE, a non-profit "born of a desire to play an integral part in the fight to help Haiti break free from a vicious cycle of poverty", through programs in health, education, agriculture, counseling, and other community services. Full event details can be seen at PopMontreal.
(12 IMAGES TOTAL)

 

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."
 

 

There is a moment on the new Flying Lotus record -- let's call it the first five seconds -- when one has to decide whether to climb aboard Steve Ellison's shimmering magic carpet for the next half hour (or century... drugs like this tend to distort time a little) or to simply survey the beautiful landscape he's laid out on his newest album-trip, Until the Quiet Comes. I say this because like all Flying Lotus records, there are a myriad of experiences to be had within the layers of subtle details, ranging from active to passive and or up and down to goddamn spiritually ecstatic.