The Squid's Ear Magazine

Somnaphon: fire mind wisdom (ACK Recordings)

Acoustic guitars, voices, digeridoo, bagpipes, cello and an array of machines swirl together, in and out of unison and/or cacophony to produce an elaborate and breathtaking journey for the listener.

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product information:


A. Trager


Angela Caine-cello

Milos Perun-bagpipes


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Label: ACK Recordings
Catalog ID: ACK11
Squidco Product Code: 14372

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2007
Country: USA
Packaging: Jewel Tray

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"'Lift this solar body from its Earthen bed.' So begins the self-described 'art weapon' that is 'Fire Mind Wisdom' from North Carolina-based Somnaphon (aka A.Traeger). Traeger credits himself with 'things' that are of a decidedly electronic nature (save for the acoustic guitar work) and is joined on occasion by guests on bagpipes, didgeridoo, 'cello, voice and percussion. There's a distinctly spiritual bent of vague origins throughout the disk that lends an aura of mystique and passion to the music. Stylistically it's a game of hopscotch but there's a certain unifying aesthetic that binds the work, not unlike some late-period Swans recordings. It's enshrouded in a certain dark-grey haze that is not without optimism if that makes any sense. I guess that pretty much characterizes the foundation for most Western religious and Pagan belief systems anyway, does it not? What do I know anyway?

The opening track showcases a simple bagpipe melody, performed by Milos Perun, over a consonant drone and some intermittent amplitude-modulated electronics. This eventually gets usurped by some warped vocal loops and shimmering noise at about the two minute mark. Nice work, but what it has to do with the 'Seige Of Delhi' is lost on me. It segues immediately into the next piece which is a very rewarding bit of electronica over a low-end rapid pulsation that gives it a nervous edge. Once the pulse subsides, there's an interlude with some bird samples until we enter some nearly hip-hop territory. This is a damn groovy little unexpected nugget with what I swear contains a Public Enemy sampled buried in the background. Just as it begins to wear thin, it makes an appropriate exit. 'Machi' brings Perun back into the proceedings, this time on didgeridoo, with further contributions from ReLvm (vocals) and some percussion work by Cabe. For the first two and a half minutes, it's pretty unsettling with the voice lending some downright creepiness to the electronic work. The rest of the track is basically a trio for acoustic guitar, didgeridoo and percussion based on simple repetitive motifs if not outright songlike. It's both comforting and otherworldly in a pleasant way.

Traeger's guitar and the heavily reverberated cello of Angela Caine dominate 'The Lunatic And The Lover.' The guitar figure remains rather stable while the 'cellist seems to improvise around it some with a good deal of restraint and a tasteful amount of dissonance. It's actually quite gorgeous and appropriate for such a Spring day. The title track begins as a plodding multi-tracked guitar meditation before it erupts into some one-man hard goth-rock. It's not extreme enough to be considered metal, but there's definitely some of that aesthetic at play here. The transitions without a pause into the sixth piece with its ambient synth-chords, atonal sequencing and sampled tabla loop. More bird recordings eventually surface that recall the middle section of 'The Earth Is Buried With The Bird Now' before the percussion returns with a more periodic rhythm. This settling into an ambient and dreamy atmospheric mood gives the impression of some sort of conclusion, as if it were the end of the first side of an LP. Works for me.

'Mirror Sand Mask' reignites the rock vibe augmented by the screamed vocals of Chris Allison. This time the rock is even heavier, but it's the second section of queasy psychedelic electronics that make the best impression. This is truly the sound of musical entropy, and I mean that as a compliment. Track eight kicks off with some melodic backward guitar that tumbles into a haze of dizzying reverb. Once the guitar gets its direction straight, the music maintains a disorienting yet allluring characterisitic. 'Kalku' is another trio piece with didgeridoo and percussion and has a very ritualistic and meditative quality about it, especially Cabe's work. Had it been a bit longer, it could have nearly induced a trance in the listener so inclined to such a state. 'A Collision' combines random electronic squiggles and spare guitar work. It doesn't really add anything to the disk, as it's way too brief, but has some interesting timbral combinations. The concluding track is a nineteen-plus minute dense chunk of what Somnaphon seems to really be all about : guitar,voice and electronics creating a space in which to get lost. It's a transcendental drone of epic proportions with subtle nuances that build over time. About ten minutes in, the trance state is broken. From here, extreme vocal exercises and loop work become the order of the day (night?) recalling some of Current 93's early works with its sheer power and dubiously spiritual convictions. The piece could truly be a record unto itself, but is not out of place in the context of the overall collection.

A disk as dark and eclectic as 'Fire Mind Wisdom' may be a hard pill to swallow for some, but is well worth your time if any of the above sentiments appeal to you as a listener. It's certainly not the type of thing I listen to on a daily basis, but is executed so well that I can't help but sing its praises. It maintains an excellent fidelity throughout and is strikingly original with the unpredictable stylistic twists. The beautifully printed artwork from Last Life Graphics ain't too shabby either. Keep it up, A.Traeger...looking forward to more."-Heathen Harvest

Artist Biographies

Track Listing:

1. siege of delhi 2:59

2. the earth is buried with the bird now 6:29

3. machi 6:08

4. the lunatic and the lover 4:26

5. fire mind wisdom 3:59

6. there are very strange birds in this forest 6:49

7. mirror sand mask 4:16

8. things occur and even stranger things happen 3:00

9. kalku 3:29

10. a collision 2:03

11. llanquihue 19:33

Related Categories of Interest:

Organized Sound and Sample Based Music
Sound, Noise, &c.

Search for other titles on the label:
ACK Recordings.

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