Thursday, August 26, 2004

Psychatrone Rhonedakk with Cotton Casino
Baron Von Rhonedakk and the Crystal Sun CD (Summersteps Records)

I think I called Psychatrone Rhonedakk’s last album Keep On Psychedelic Mind! something like a tribute album to all psychedelic music, and although its follow-up album surely resides on the psychedelic side of things it’s a whole lot more focused in terms of stylistic approach. With special guest, former Acid Mothers Temple member Cotton Casino, on synths and vocals there’s a great chance that avid followers of the Japanese freak collective will look this one up and I am the first to celebrate such a consequence. Both because such listeners are likely to dig these severely spaced out sounds but also since it finally gives this psychedelic mastermind a bit of the attention he truly deserves. The opening "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" is a spacey, fragile and beautiful rendition of the Pink Floyd song. It includes swirling synth lines from Casino, which aims even further out in the galaxies in the heavily droning "Several Species of Alien Beings Gathered in Space Jamming with Cotton". If that title doesn’t tell you everything you need to know you’ll have a lot of catching up to do when it comes psych/space/drone music. "The Dream" provides repetitious shockwaves of gloomy keyboards and hallucinogenic mantras of phased guitars. It goes on for something like ten minutes and if it was up to me I’d probably fill an entire disc with this sort of highly enjoyable washes of sweat-inducing guitar/keyboard attacks. Add to all this a cover of Nazareth’s "Night Woman" and a track inspired by Neu! and I guess it’s pretty obvious that this one comes recommended to anyone into psychedelia and space rock.

Spectral Light & Moonshine Firefly Snakeoil Jamboree
Burning Mills CD (
September Gurls)

Following up Breathe Stone’s fairly recent Hex Thistle album, Timothy Renner is now back with another gem on Sepember Gurls, the always-fascinating psych/folk/space/whatever label out of Nürnberg, Germany. This time we get a glimpse of Renner’s Spectral Light & Moonshine Firefly Snakeoil Jamboree project, a project dedicated to all sorts of Appalachian ballads. The whole thing rides along dusted country roads that are just as likely to lead to heaven as to hell, providing a somewhat haunting glimpse of the “old weird America” as the press kit so accurately describes it. With sounds ranging from old hymns, hex songs and murder ballads to ghost songs, folk prayers and lost gospel music it’s probably apparent that we’re invited to witness a quiet inferno of beauty and darkness.

Banjo and vocals are the key components throughout the entire disc, but there is actually a wide array of folk instrumentation employed throughout, including whistles, harmonium, dulcimer, bouzuki and probably a lot more that I can’t make out. This is unquestionably rural music, perhaps a celebration to the forests Renner used to call home when growing up in Pennsylvania. Beyond providing 63 minutes of dark folk magic Burning Mills makes me want to find that hidden path that would go along with these hidden songs.


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Empty Bell Ringing in the Sky...
It happens just about every time I get ill; I rediscover one of my old favorite bands and listen through their entire back catalogue. The band that has been taking every single minute of stereo time today is Virginian Pelt. I could go on and on about how much I love this combo but I’ll settle with including reviews of some of their key albums.

Pelt Rob’s Choice CD (VHF)
How can one possibly explain where Pelt's eternal music comes from? As I see things, their massive and remarkable sandstorm of sound might originate from two possible sources. Either it comes directly from some sort of higher power or, and this is even more farfetched, it's the product of three incredibly gifted and daring Virginians coming together and somehow persuading each other to try to transcend all barriers and borders created to stop us all from going insane, or in another words to "transcend the bullshit". Rob's Choice was hand-selected by west-coast mystic Rob Vaughn out of numerous recordings from Pelt's 1998 US tour, and no one can question the man's taste. The album consists of three lengthy multi-layered tracks, which hold hallucinogenic qualities far beyond the exceptional. It's packed with dark, foreboding instrumental images serving as portraits of, or windows to, some kind of higher spiritual plane. The slowly unfolded, meandering overtones weave in and out of your psyche with chilling ease, making this an ethereal and frightening journey at the same time. Imagine looking over on the other side and seeing those things you've always been curious about but were afraid to confront. Haunting things, things that you probably would have lived happier never knowing of in the first place. That's how mind-altering it can be to let Pelt's layer upon layer of droning psychedelia access your mind and soul. I kind of understand the hostile guy in Montana that screamed to the band after a show that "it was wrong to preach to him and telling him God's words". I can't guarantee that Rob's Choice will have the same effect on you, but I can promise that it will not leave you untouched. Just how good is this album? Well, lets just say that I might like this one even more than their phenomenal Empty Bell Ringing In the Sky. That alone should tell you what you need to do.

Pelt Ayahuasca 2CD (VHF)
Pelt's music is fascinating not only for what's first visible, but also for what unfolds after numerous listenings. In the past, the visible has been dominated by meandering overtones, caught up in a gravitational swirl rotating around its own center until you've completely lost all traces with the real world, but the real world has been here all along. The dense clusters of sound dust have always had an ethnicity to them that's somehow created a secret line from peripheral territories among massive and energetic stars in the outer galaxy to the most rural part of the Appalachians. The double CD Ayahuasca was the first album where Pelt fully displayed the acoustic and folkish part of their repertoire. It's interesting to listen as one of the strangest wonders of contemporary music continues to slowly progress, and the results are even more striking than when we last heard from the trio.

The magically resonating opener "True Vine" sets the mind in the right place from the very start. It's a detailed close-up on the earth witnessed from a glowing star high in the wide-open sky. The anxious beauty of isolation and doubt has rarely been as evident in any drone music ever before. But what makes Ayahuasca the best album I've heard all year is that these kind of mind-cleansing visceral drones stand right next to traditional Appalachian folk numbers like the wonderful "The Cuckoo" and the banjo/Tibetan bowl masterpiece of "Deep Sunny South." The first disc ends with "Raga Called John, Pt 1" which possibly is the strongest track on the record. Raw Fahey-esque guitar work meshes with ethnic drone bliss created from hurdy gurdy and concertina into a hallucinatory daydream that you can and will get lost in.

The second disc starts on a similar note as the first with a long piece of dramatic bowed electronics, presumably not sculpted by human beings but by the winds and the radiation from a distant star. As with a few of the other more abstract pieces on the record it is a bit less haunting (but by no means less contemplative) than the last few outings. That doesn't apply for the manic "Bear Head Apparition" though which sounds like small drops of molten rock slowly uniting with tumultuous blocks of sound. The closing numbers are the last two parts of "Raga Called John" and what a fabulous cerebral monument of metallic scrapings and folkish drones both of them proves to be. Wherever you were at when you jumped on this journey "Pt. 2" will take you to a wholly other place over the course of its 26 minutes of mystic playing and ghostly transporting sounds. And "Pt. 3" is just as overwhelming, again combining the love for classic acoustic guitar picking with experimental yet timeless drones with an eclectic variety of instrumentation.

Ayahuasca simply has to be Pelt's ultimate achievement. How can one possibly improve after this? I don't know about that, but I'll be sure to stick around and see where they might be heading in the future. As far as this one goes, it doesn’t get any better, folks.

Pelt Pearls from the River CD (VHF)
There are probably only about a handful of bands which could be my sole subject for an evening-long alcohol infused monologue. The always-fascinating Virginian trio Pelt is unquestionably one of the few. There's a "beauty in disguise" sort of approach to what they're doing that I find completely irresistible. I'm not even sure what I enjoy the most; the corrosive layers of feverish drones or the acoustic duels between Jack Rose's finger-picked 12 string guitar and Mike Gangloff's Esraj. On Pearls from the River we get plenty of both but with a certain emphasis on things acoustic, and that's just fine as Pat Best once again proves more than capable of tying things together with incredibly thick bass lines. My favorite of the three epic tracks is probably the raga-like title track which sounds like it could have been cut from Jack Rose's solo LP Red Horse, White Mule on Eclipse, but this is decidedly a group effort and consequently wider in its sonic range. As you might expect if you ever heard Red Horse you can hear the sounds of Fahey, Basho and Kottke circling around the Pelt heavens, but the overtones and the bowed instrumentation are nothing but Pelt and their own damaged vision. That combination works masterfully and displays a band that continues to develop with every single release. I'm not sure how to rate Pearls from the River compared to the band's previous outings, but judging from the cpl of weeks I've owned this record it will definitely get loads of stereo time.


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Six Organs of Admittance The Manifestation (Strange Attractors)

The Manifestation originally came out as a beautifully packaged one-sided LP on Ba Da Bing Records in 2000. It was a one-time pressing of 500 copies that disappeared so fast even some long-time fans missed out. So this is definitely a reissue that serves a purpose and as it also includes about 20 minutes of incredible bonus material, extensive hand-written project notes and some spoken word from David Tibet this proves to be a must have for everyone, including the ones who scored the vinyl original.

Six Organs of Admittance is a name mentioned with a great deal of reverence around these parts and that won’t change after hearing this beautifully hazy forest exploration. “The Manifestation” is an extended piece, which tends to focus on the Organs’ more spacious and experimental side but as things develop it walks out of the dense clouds of psychedelic drone primitivism into the green fields of absolutely delicious psych folk. It’s actually an ode to the sun (as represented by the original vinyl B-side etching) and it’s difficult to imagine a more majestic and beautiful celebration of anything.

When it comes to accurately describing the other track, “The Six Stations” I’ll give in and just copy a few paragraphs from the press kit. It really tells you all you need to know:

“Chasny was inspired to incorporate the original artefact into a musical experiment for the reissue, one that adopts the ideas of alchemical astronomers of yore and incorporates them - quite literally. Chasny placed the original record on his turntable, B-side up, laid his stylus down on the sun etching and recorded the results. He then placed the needle down again in a different spot, and then a different one again all the way to the end. Chasny was appropriating the concept of Bode's Law, a rough rule that predicts the spacing of the planets in the solar system in relation to the perceived distance of each planet from the sun. While the stylus clicked and popped as it "played" the sun, Chasny composed music using the ancient Egyptian mode for each of the "naked eye" planets. From Mercury through Saturn, acoustic modals dance, drone and chime in its own particular key as the sun etching crackles, sounding eerily like an old pre-war 78 RPM unearthed from some alien land. As for Earth…the "center of the universe" in the Milky Way has no mode at all, no musical key to speak of. All Earth has is the human voice, and lending his most unique set of pipes for the planet Earth is David Tibet of Current 93. As the sun sizzles statically behind him, Tibet recites a spoken word piece of terrestrial imagery, lending a very haunting, cryptic feel to the otherworldly affair. The result is akin to a musical journey outward from the sun, blending shimmering acoustic guitar and the original B-side's own dissonance for an absolutely surreal listening experience.”


Thursday, August 19, 2004

Smallflowers Press
One good thing with not doing The Broken Face any longer is that I have the time to actually read other ’zines and magazines. One of the most recent and interesting discoveries is Kris Price’s Malden-based Smallflowers Press. It’s basically a ’zine comprised of three super-extensive interviews with Dredd Foole, Sunburned Hand of the Man, and Chris Corsano. There are no reviews, almost no ads and the whole thing is still 80 pages long so I don’t think I have to tell you that those interviews go extremely deep. Try Eclipse Records if this sounds interesting.


Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Playlist #6b
Six Organs of Admittance "The Manifestation" (Strange Attractors)
The Spectral Light & Moonshine... "Burning Mills" (September Gurls)
Zelienople "Sleeper Coach" (Loose Thread)

Playlist #6
Hush Arbors "Since We Have Fallen" (Digitalis)
The Dead Texan "S/t" (Kranky)
Stephan Mathieu "On Tape" (Häpna)
Mike VanPortfleet " Beyond the Horizon Line" (Silber)
The Lost Domain "And Yet the Sea Is Not Full" (Shytone)
Christina Carter "Living Contact" (Wholly Other)
Steven R. Smith "Antimony" (Digitalis)
Psychatrone & Cotton "Baron Von Rhonedakk" (Black Plastic Sound)
V/A "Woodlot Surer" (From the Same Mother)
V/A "Mitä Tuli Sanottua" (267 Lattajjaa)


Saturday, August 07, 2004

After the goldrush #1
I am guessing that it’s quite common that people try to get in the right mood for a gig with the aid of the band’s new album or something along those lines. For me it’s often the other way around, I try to avoid the band and even the music style in question so there’s definitively no guitar noise on the playlist right now, a cpl of hours before the much anticipated Keijo Haino gig in Norrköping. On the opposite I am diving deep into the stripped down and somewhat lonely folk world of Justin Vollmar. 13 or So People Who Need Chances is his second album on the consistently fascinating BlueSanct label and although quite a few classic singer/songwriters and folk heroes (Drake, Donovan, Dylan, Townes Van Zandt to mention a few) come to mind Vollmar clearly has his own very capable voice and abilities, and they shine through on this stark, sometimes saddening disk. He takes your hand and walks you through the chambers of the human heart and introduces us to a cast of vulnerable characters with striking lyrical precision and interesting arrangements. Don’t let the latter comment fool you to believe that we’re speaking of a wide breath of instrumentation here, no this a bare album based around nylon stringed guitar and electric guitar but there are the inclusions of field recordings and unexpected experimental bits that really adds an extra dimension to the proceedings. 13 or So People Who Need Chances is mostly the kind of solemn, conversational record that may be hard to take if it’s too long but as this one clocks in at just over 27 minutes I'm the first to celebrate its qualities.

The unhurried pace and fragile beauty connects Vollmar to Coastal’s Halfway to You (Words on Music) but the latter is decidedly more atmospheric and dreamy. It's an entrancing, melodious dream pop excursion that drifts lazily along a path of simple guitar textures, gentle but hypnotic rhythms and not the least Luisa Gough’s hushed vocals. It’s spacious in the same way as American Analog Set and glacial and quiet like a Low record but most of all it’s a great companion for witnessing a warm summer rain. The very same label serves us a great reissue of Lincoln, Nebraska unit For Against’s captivating debut album Echelons from 1987. The music is an especially vast form of aggressive pop that has its roots in the murky post punk of Joy Division, along with the jangle and pop sense of those early REM records. It’s all pretty great but “Daylight” sticks in my mind the longest with its catchy post punk characteristics and it sounds so much ‘80s (and I mean that in a good sense here) that it simply couldn’t have been recorded at any other time. Maybe it’s just me hearing things but this makes me want to dive deep into my collection of New Zealand pop records and if that’s not a compliment I am not quite sure what is.

THTX provides another kind of glimpse into the past, both my own past as an avid fan of everything Matthew Smith-related (Volebeats, Outrageous Cherry, Monster Island) as well as to experimental psychedelic music of the ‘60s and art rock of ‘70s. Ultimately (Cosmo-Revolution Technologies) is these sonic alchemists’ first official album although it’s supposedly part of a series which all in all will include eight CDs in the coming near with individual vinyl album releases running concurrently. Given that it might not come as a surprise that what we get are highly improvisational recordings/acid jams. During the recording process no discussions about musical direction or any planning were allowed. "The tape rolled and whatever came out was used", and although there are overdubs, they were done immediately and most of the compositions were completed and mixed in an hour or two. That shines through as the disc actually sounds more like a well-recorded live document than a regular album. The instrumentation includes guitars, bass, percussion, brass and plenty of keyboards, which all results in repetitive grooves spiced with layered electronic clouds and overdriven guitar freak-outs. And in-between all this they cross expansive walls of space hypnotism and swirling feedback to take the listener over calm waters and then lift them higher into the atmosphere, riding inside the jet stream. Not for everyone but some of you will love this to death.


Friday, August 06, 2004

The Juniper Meadows Pine Needles & Cones CD-R (Digitalis Industries)
I am standing on a high windswept meadow looking down a steep hillside all draped in moss-clad rocks and picturesque roots. The open vista where I am provides a safe spot for observing the mystery of the gloomy forest below and that’s a bit what it feels like to listen to The Juniper Meadows’ strummed guitar, plucked banjo and ukulele, violin scrapes and wheezing melodica. The beauty shines brightly through the trees of The Juniper Meadows’ metaphorical forest but there are also times when you’re left there on your own with plenty of space between the notes, silences seemingly there to make you observe the things that not at once are visible. Things that will differ from listener to listener depending on your own mileage but the forest has never had a scary effect on me, rather the opposite. So instead of watching out for strange, indescribable creatures I find myself imagining the burbling water in a brook and birds twittering in the trees and can’t help to think of the fractured and organic listen that this Oklahoma duo reveals as another mysterious link to the Jewelled Antler collective. That’s a great compliment folks.


Thursday, August 05, 2004

There are certain things that you love so much that you want them to happen over and over again. One such event is the fantastic Terrastock festivals. To celebrate the memory of the first one (Terrastock 4 in Seattle) that I had the chance to visit myself I am happy to publish an article that initially saw the light of the day in The Broken Face #10. Let us hope there are more festivals along these lines around the bend…

Terrastock 4
To describe an event in the year 2000 as conceived in the spirit of peace, love and cooperation is not only brave, from a commercial point of view it's probably downright unwise. In a musical climate that cherishes the amount of sold records and earned money more than the actual music, one sometimes wonders where there’s going to be room for music and events that are about passion, admiration and friendship in the future. In the true meaning of the words above, lifted from Phil McMullen's introduction in the official program notes for Terrastock 4 in Seattle, you will have a lot to live up to, but in the case of Terrastock all of them fits the atmosphere generated perfectly. Phil explains: "It's always hard to put your finger on just what it is that makes the atmosphere of a Terrastock so special. It's not something one can create out of thin air; all I can do is try to put all the elements into place, which I've learned from experience, have worked in the past. 'Peace' seems a strange thing to ask for at a rock festival perhaps, but it's a dual-edged sword: both a prayer for a complete lack of anger or dispute, and the hope that people will listen intently during the quieter passages of the music. 'Love' is both an expression of friendship and mutual admiration, two of the strongest emotions in the air during a Terrastock - a place where old acquaintances are renewed and musicians watch each other and form an integral part of the audience themselves. And 'cooperation' underlines the combined effort of everybody involved in organizing the festival. No matter what city Terrastock takes place in, there never seems to be a shortage of willing and able volunteers who work together to ensure each one is at least as good as, and hopefully better than, the last; and like a rolling stone it gathers people up as it goes along who remain totally committed to not only the event itself but the continuing success of it as well. Probably the most amazing discovery this year was Aamir Malik, who got in touch with us out of the blue early on, purely as a fan, offering help in arranging flights in and out of Seattle for Bevis and myself - and ended up arranging cheap travel, and finding affordable accommodation, for not only most of the bands but half the bloody audience as well! Aamir is efficient, good-humoured and totally unflappable and epitomizes what I mean by 'cooperation'. Without people like Aamir there would be no Terrastock. He is truly a Prince of the Terrastock Nation".

There are obviously many people that deserve being mentioned, but personally most gratitude goes to the people responsible for booking what has to be one of the most amazing line-ups that any festival has ever billed. Everything from relatively new foreign acts to the unexpected successes like local Crome Syrcus that had its prime in 1968 when they released a fabulous slab of psychedelic rock on the "Love Cycle" LP. Going back in time to this very year is where George Parsons' story about Terrastock 4 begins.

"In 1968, I was 15 years old. One early November day, my best friend Duane, his girlfriend Madeline and I were cutting school; raiding her parent’s liquor cabinet. We hatched the master plan to run away from home (this was a popular pastime with folks our age at the time). Instead of going the 120 miles to San Francisco, (as most of our fellow runaways from across the U.S. were doing), we drove north. We ended up in Seattle. Floating from party to party, sleeping on basement floors. It was easier to get free acid than free food, so we tripped constantly. The memory of Seattle that I retained 32 years later was fractured and semi-mythic; I wondered if any place could have been as beautiful and strange as I’d remembered it to be. My excuse to revisit was equal parts a chance to visit one of my oldest and best friends, and to attend Terrastock 4, both extremely worthwhile endeavors".

From a different perspective and a different part of the US came long-time Broken Face compadre Lee Jackson, finally realizing the long-planned trip to the great Northwest. One thing which is strange about Seattle is how often TV-series, books and movies base themselves here, perhaps an attempt to partake of the city's hip but quirky cultural and social life. Needless to say many people are surprised with what the real Seattle actually is like. Lee's first impression of the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix and grunge (not to mention the Green Pajamas) was not entirely what he expected either.

"This was not the Seattle I’d read about in Tom Robbins novels or seen in bad Cameron Crowe movies. The streets were hustling with all sorts of folks from LL Bean yuppies to "grunge kids" as the sun reflected off the broken surface of the Pacific. After recklessly driving through a tangled array of highways and overpasses I found my way to Joe Ross’s (The Green Pajamas' bassist - Ed. note) house. I’d be throwing down there for the next few nights. Mats’ hair looked a bit longer, but he was still the same guy that stayed with me two summers ago. Joe looked the exact same as the last time I saw him, which was only about seven months before. After meeting Del, one of three sharing floor space in the already densely populated house (though everyone concerned couldn’t have been more hospitable the whole time), we sat and relaxed for all of ten minutes and dug on a recent Sun City Girls CD that Mats had just bought before heading out for the Showbox and our date with destiny."

The chosen venue, The Showbox proved to be just perfect. Two bars and two stages, several projectors flashing constantly changing images onto almost every surface (sometimes the images would mesh with the music in incredible ways and other times, they were just amusingly incongruous). Contrary to possible expectations, the days passed without a whiff of marijuana smoke to be detected, and only a few eyes bore that distinctive wide-open spaciousness, leading me to think that psychedelic music is it’s own drug, and a highly effective one at that. (GP)

We got to the Showbox in time to catch a rare live set by festival openers the Ethereal Counterbalance, Rod Goodway’s revolving psych ensemble. In this conflagration, the Counterbalance was Goodway, Nick, Ade and Andy of the Frond, and Jon and Paul of the Alchemysts. Needless to say, these guys made a psych rumble that lived up to and exceeded the sum of its parts. Great way to kick off the weekend. After finally meeting perpetually moving master of ceremonies Phil McMullen, it was time for Voyager One and some catching up. Mats and I found our way to one of two bar areas and started chugging Shiners and Bass Ales like Evian spring water. Much recollecting/filling-in ensued during the Voyager One set, so it’s all a bit of a blur. (People who paid better attention described them as "noisy grooving space rockers. Angular and using quiet passages to open onto roaring maelstroms that subside into groovage" - Ed. note). (LJ)

Next the Lothars materialized on the side stage. This ensemble managed to conjure some of the most eerily soothing aural wallpaper that I’d hear the entire weekend, building from a whisper to a wail across the span of twenty minutes. Later joined by Windy & Carl; the four theramins, guitar and violin made music for the upper stratosphere, with more than a trace of the chill of empty space. Far from the one-joke wonder this Abunai! side-trip could be, the Lothars seem intent upon exploring the outer reaches of what this distinctive instrument is capable of. Like the keening of a musical saw, amplified into a sci-fi howl, the Lothars did the theramin honor. Windy & Carl emerged from the Lothars' performance like a silvery moth leaving its chrysalis. As they let their wings unfold and dry, they did their low subtle droning thing, that at times was like some kind of folk music in slow motion, or a two person Popol Vuh, stroking long blue northern lights out of their flawless interplay. (GP & LJ)

And then God said let there be rawk, and Mark Arm and the Monkeywrench unleashed sonic hellfire of a more ragged variety on the big stage with a blistering set that drew heavily from their new album, "Electric Children." Seeing Tim Kerr stalking the stage and banging his guitar like some possessed psychedelic demon straight out of the Exorcist was one of a few highlights from the weekend. And the visuals (processed digital images of the performance in real time) were brain-damaging in their own right. Great fun for kids young and old. Tarentel took over on the second stage with their atmospheric prog/drone sounds, building from minimal tones to more dense throbbing passages. It was a far cry from the next set though. I know that the Wellwater Conspiracy are old faves at Terrascope Towers, and it’s not hard to see why based on their two long players, but the band on stage didn’t seem like the same band at all, and it wasn’t. In Matt Cameron’s place (off on a Pearl Jam tour apparently) was Mudhoney's Dan Peters, playing bass was Seattlite/old-time hippie Jack Endino, and filling out the ranks was none other than Ben Sheppard (also of Soundgarden) on lead vocals. This was a problem for a few, but I could get into what they were doing. Kicking their set off with the Savage Resurrection classic "Thing in E" certainly didn’t hurt, John McBain’s acid-cooked leads smoking throughout. It was a more punk rawk set than I expected, but they mostly delivered the goods, all snarling punk poses and girl rock slaggings aside. (LJ)

Being one of those who thought Wellwater were a bit too "rock star" and vague I went for another stout while I waited for the mighty Bostonians of Abunai! to occupy the smaller stage near the upper bar area. I have called Abunai! "the Byrds on steroids" but they don’t really sound like steroids or the Byrds that much, though they share a love of the guitar’s possibilities with the latter, as well as a love of the folk song form. At one point producing copies of a broadside to one of their songs, which they passed out to the audience members. The vocals were mixed way too low, but the roar was ecstatic and beautiful indeed. Abunai! put out a warm, good humoured vibe and play together like a band that plays together a lot and would do it just for fun (you must get a copy of their most recent high freeform freakout, the "Round Wound" CD on Camera Obscura). Also of note was a slamming cover of a 13th Floor Elevators’ "Reverberation," introduced as a Partridge Family cover. (GP & MG)

I’d seen the Charalambides live before, but this time out with the addition of Heather Murray (formerly of the Ash Castles of the Ghost Coast), they were playing as a trio. This was exciting since they hadn’t done so in almost five years. Seeing them on stage before the biggest crowd they’d played to date was surreal in its own right. Amid a continuous clatter of beer bottles and murmuring voices, the Charalambides sat stoically, equally spaced out across the stage. "Are they waiting for people to shut up?" I wondered to myself. "Because they ain’t gonna shut up." After a minute or two Tom began gently stroking the strings of his guitar, coaxing siren-like feedback into something resembling music, but it took a few minutes to develop as Heather and Christina made their vocal presence known. (LJ) I know that we sometimes use this term loosely, but you have to believe me when I say that I in the true essence of the word was completely blown away by their set. A soft cumulus cloud in a heavy thunderstorm would have seemed perfectly still in comparison. These Texans have an unequalled talent for fully absorbing the moment and the silence while each shivering note seems to be sprung from the most painful withering honesty. While the plucking guitars were creeping down my stoic spine, Christina Carter’s non-word contemplative vocal delivery washed over me and temporarily made my world stop. It was like a total blockage of everything real that surrounded me, like gazing through a fractured prism and spotting a twist on the nervous system itself. I don’t recall if this state of mind lasted for 5 seconds or 10 minutes but I do know that it was the most scary yet blissful live experience I ever experienced. I instantly knew that no one ever would be able top them at their own game. That they fought through some terrible Wyoming blizzard on their drive up from Texas in order to get there on time only increases my admiration for their brilliant set. (MG)

Damon & Naomi followed and were backed by the three present and primary members of the godlike Japanese band Ghost; Masaki Batoh, Michio Kurihara, and Kazuo Ogino, who thankfully were given plenty of room to play even if only as collaborators. Kurihara’s soaring guitar playing was some of the most loving treatment given the instrument since St. Cipollina slipped this mortal coil. Damon & Naomi were brilliant, better than I expected them to be. They lifted the whole crowd up, and in no small way, this was at least in part due to the amazing musical backing they had. Though they may had slightly eaten into Ghost’s time, that hardly affected the impact of their all too brief (15 minutes?) set. Masoki Batoh straddled the drum set, Kurihara cradled his guitar, and Kazuo Ogino stood waiting at the keyboards. Then Batoh erupted, smashing the drums in a primal stomp groove that fell somewhere between prime Blue Cheer and the most cozmic Ash Ra Tempel. Things got really interesting when Ogino and Kurihara joined in, delivering searing psych/noise destruction that left an indelible impression in such a short time. Back home again after the festival certain people were truly pissed off because of Ghost's short set, describing it as a disgrace that a 'head-lining' band only played for 15 minutes. But no matter how I approach things, the memory that I still carry with me is not the shortness of the set, rather of a performance which bordered on the genius and had grown men crying out in joy. The first day was over and Terrastock had by far lived up to my expectations. Things were off to a grand start in my estimation. (GP, LJ, MG & PM)

Saturday came with a nice brunch at a place that’s a record store and restaurant in one (manage to spend only $60), and then we caught a quick Green Pajamas rehearsal at Laura V’s before Joe took us through his weird brother’s home-made haunted house. The ride in Joe’s van to the Showbox later was scarier.

Kicking off festivities this night was another band I’d wanted to see since before they were a band, when Kate and Wayne played with Damon and Naomi as Magic Hour. Major Stars most definitely brought the rock this night, delivering a blazing set of jams that were every bit as intricate as they were intense. Wayne Rogers is another one of those guitar madmen that wears all his emotions on his sleeve, scowling and cringing as he wrestles with those electric demons, and that coupled with Kate Biggar’s animated stage presence was another joy to behold. (LJ)
The Minus Five are having as much fun as humanly possible. Is it possible to live in dark sunglasses? Pete Buck must be the healthiest giant rock star on the planet. Martyn Bates (of Eyeless in Gaza fame) weaves a cool otherworldly blue magic out of himself and a guitar. Powerful and ethereal at the same time. Crome Syrcus; who are actually from the ‘68 era, brought a very authentic taste of those times to the lower stage, and those old hoot-owls can still play great, starting out flowing and ending up in the blues. Pat Orchard was a quiet revelation. Easily one of the high points of the whole event; this lanky, dark haired guy with deep-set eyes makes a spellbinding folk rock mystery out of guitar, voice and echoplex. John Martyn comes to mind, but Pat definitely has his own artistic and human voice and vision (I bought his "Shabby Road" the next day, and am still quite glad I did). (GP)

Subarachnoid Space was next on the big stage. The San Francisco quartet delivered a stunning space/psych rock explosion of swelling waves of hypnotic grandeur. It was spacious and beautiful but at the same time it felt like a high-speed train approaching with uncontrollable velocity, crushing your eardrums to pieces with its power. One track in particular with tight, circular bass lines and spastic percussion stood out as something new yet still utterly Subarachnoidian. Another highlight. Being way up somewhere around the clouds I felt a desperate need to calm down. For that the company of the quietly hypnotic Amber Asylum, offering a sort of medieval gothic drone with occasional vocal embellishments (and some violin accompaniment from the always lovely Isobel of Bardo Pond), and another of those dark ones from the bar did the trick just perfectly. (LJ & MG)

From an audience point of view, drinking a beer while your favorite band is playing seems like a very natural thing but apparently the organizers really had to put a lot of work to get the liquor license from the local government. Phil explains: "Hardly anyone realizes this, but up until the morning of the first day we were being told that we were only allowed to keep the bar open until 10pm, and even that had been a struggle to achieve. Washington State has some of the most stringent and arcane liquor laws in the whole of the United States. I was told in no uncertain terms that if we wanted it to be an "all ages" gig (i.e., allow people in under the age of 21) we wouldn't be able to have alcohol on sale at all. I was adamant though that not only was it to be "all ages", but that the term was to be used literally: even teenagers and small children would be welcome (mine included!). By sectioning off part of the venue and posting security persons to check everyone's identity as they entered that area, we were able to get round that - for the first time since before the days of Prohibition I believe (though quite why nobody had thought of doing that before defeats me) - and in the end we were fortunate enough to get a license right through till 1am. I still can't believe we pulled that one off. I know some people thought the security was a bit harsh, but you have to remember firstly that we were quite literally in uncharted territory, and secondly that a Terrastock audience is pretty unique. You try telling guys more used to ejecting over-enthusiastic stage-divers that probably the most likely cause of self-inflicted injury is somebody tripping over someone who appears to have fallen asleep!"

The risk of doing that during the following act, the mighty Linus Pauling Quartet has to be considered rather small. They practically tore the place down with their stoner metal/space rock death march. Charlie’s vocals were especially raw and Killdozer like as the group ran through many of their best songs, including the excellent Mike Gunn tribute, "Bongfire," "Cole Porter," originally recorded live for a Terrascope CD sampler, and the spastic freak rock opus, "Dance of the Bug People." The closing cover of Kraftwerk’s "Hall of Mirrors" suggested shoegazing dope-rock in its most epic form, foreshadowing of Bardo Pond’s set the next night? When Ramon and Steve began humping each other with their guitars at the earth-shattering finale, I knew that I had been touched, forever changed even. (LJ)

I had been hanging with Joe Ross for almost a week before the festival and it was a somewhat strange feeling to see him entering the stage with the rest of the members of one of my all-time favorite bands, the Green Pajamas. It felt like a flash of real history to finally be able to catch them live after enjoying their records for such a long time. With that kind of starting point it’s pretty much impossible to fail, and their lovely set of flowing psych pop didn't disappoint. The last track, an epic space-rocking version of the Goblin Market song (a side-project of Jeff Kelly and Laura Vanderpool) called "Autumn Leaves", saw Jeff stretching out his Neil Young muscles and Laura turning in some lovely flute playing. It all literally left the crowd shouting for more. As Jeff told me later, "My fingers were just starting to get warm." (MG & LJ)

But time is of the essence in the festival scene and Doug Yule and company were ready to go on the side stage. As we all know, Doug Yule is not the most revered member of the Velvet Underground, but he was a member for Chrissakes! Unfortunately his set didn’t do much in the way of revising my previous assessments of the man, outside of a nice cover of "What Goes On." Moe Tucker is a small woman with short hair, glasses, black leather jacket, electric guitar with a Jonathan Richman sticker on it. She looks like a grandmother and was a fine choice for the closing slot Saturday night, though I honestly didn’t know what to expect going in. I knew that she was still a staunchly indie-minded rocker, and like dear old Sterling Morrison, she hadn’t really reaped many rewards from her tenure with the Velvets. My opinion of her certainly jumped a few notches though after seeing her intense set. Most of it actually bore more resemblance to the heavy duty proto-punk of folks like the MC5 and Stooges than her work with the Velvets, but then both of those bands were probably influenced by the earliest most primitive Velvets racket anyway. At one point, she invited Doug Yule on stage for a very sweet rendition of "I’m Sticking With You" (another one of those moments that made you feel blessed to be in crowd). And then she ripped out a scorching "Who Do You Love?" that had more than a few of us doing the jerk in unison. Special mention must go to her (incredibly loud) guitarist, Greg Beshers, who had a knack for setting the place on fire at the drop of a hat. A worthy albeit deafening way to end day two. (LJ & GP)

Sunday kicked off with a trip over to the Kelly household and a delicious brunch courtesy of Ma Kelly that left everyone in attendance most satisfied. After some visiting with the family (it really is a family affair, ya know?), we strolled down the lane to the university district with a couple of the Abunaites and checked out an instrument shop. Then we made it to the Showbox just in time for the In Gowan Stone Breath Ring (or something like that) gig at 5:30. Both noted wyrd folk ensembles would be playing as one entity tonight with the help of Eric Wivinus (Salamander, Skye Klad) and Michael Anderson (Drekka and label-head for the excellent Blue Sanct imprint). This was definitely the most traditional set of the festival, drawing from old Appalachian ballads as well as original material for their spooky, meditative set. Delicate Awol took over on the main stage with a familiar but intense drone rock attack, but it worked really well anyway. They had a knack for shooting off on some deep-reaching tangents at any moment. (LJ)

Donovan’s Brain is Ron Sanchez and whoever is available at the time (including Richard Treece of Help Yourself fame this time out). They took long orange cocoons of fuzzy architecture and flailed them senselessly till phosphorescent moths emerged and swam upwards toward the slowly revolving glitterball in the center of the ceiling. (GP)

Ben Chasny’s Six Organs of Admittance is just about the most exciting acid folk act in the US right now, so I was definitely enticed by the proposition of a live set. Chasny made an intense racket from the beginning, stomping out beats on the stage floor as he grunted, tearing into his guitar with manic ferocity one moment, unfurling intricate finger-picking passages the next. And he made the most of the large stage, bringing up some friends to man various noisemakers, bells and percussion. Together they obtained a dense meditative drone/spontaneous jam that left every mouth in the house agape. (LJ) They virtually stole the weekend through their sheer intensity, dexterity and enthusiasm: if pushed to say what my favourite set was, I'd have to say it was theirs. They brought the place to a standstill, and me to my knees. What freaked me wasn't so much Chasny's soulfulness and dexterity as his youthful exuberance. So much potential! That was probably my proudest moment to be honest, seeing so many people slack-jawed over a band they knew in name only if at all. (PM)

Next Kinski blasted off from the side stage. They abstracted sounds into pure primal wail and freehowling textural chunks of mojo and imagination worthy of the heaviest Sonic Youthian guitar squall. Another band to investigate further. Then festival perennials Bardo Pond, one of the five greatest live acts on the planet these days, took over the main stage, extracting meaty psych rumblings that left the entire Showbox rattled and worn out. By the time Isobel picked up the violin, a small cloud of green smoke had collected above their heads. I was never quite sure if it was pot or radioactive fall out. This set saw them expanding on the more improvisational build up aspects of their sound (highlighted on the excellent "Vol. 1" CDR) before ripping out a much more jagged up-tempo thing that left me all sorts of hypnotized, but then that always happens with Bardo Pond. (LJ & GP)

Children of the Rainbow. Aaah, Children of the Rainbow - the "mystery act". Apparently some still haven't figured out that it was actually Damon and Naomi, plus Wayne and Kate from the Major Stars (all of whom had previously played together in Magic Hour), dressed in long robes and flowing blond wigs, performing lovingly crafted tributes to Merrell Fankhauser and Mu! Damon laughed afterwards and said how ironical it would be if after years of struggling as creative artists they finally made their fortune as a tribute band. And although he was joking at the time, he does have a point. I don't think they're seriously considering ever recreating the moment, but it was certainly one of the funniest, and most memorable, performances of any of the Terrastocks to date. The weird thing was, having laughed with them through several run-throughs - including a particularly bourbon-fuelled dress-rehearsal at the Camlin Hotel (where almost all the bands from Terrastock stayed) late on Saturday night watched by bemused members of Ghost, the end result wasn't especially funny at all. Oh, for sure the flowers they launched out into the audience were meant to be a light-hearted piss-take of the whole hippy vibe; but what struck me as I watched them was, this is actually fucking GREAT! (PM)

The less allergic among the audience wove these remnants of another world into their hair or clothing. I saved a couple and pressed one in a book. Looking at it today still makes me smile. Some of the faces under the long, long, blonde on blonde locks may have been known from other lives, but what they did here with great good humor should carve them out a seat in heaven somewhere all their own. Then Country Joe (with a little help from the Frond) did three of my all time favorite C.J. & the Fish songs "Who Am I?", "Janis", and "Bass Strings", it felt personal, like a gift to me. It brought tears to my eyes, and I felt a little embarrassed streaming happy rivulets. But moreover it was glee, and grateful that ruled the day. The Bevis Frond were at least as good as I expected them to be. Those guys (all near my age) work as hard as any band I’ve ever seen, and they deliver the cosmic goods smoldering and alive. (GP)

Finally, the mighty Alchemysts brought things to a worthy close with a masterful set of Detroit city psych that had me wanting to dig in deep to their awesome new album "Zero Zen." I was so utterly worn out by this point, that just standing was nearly an impossible proposition. Were it not for the spacious bar areas at opposite sides of the club, I’d never had made it through the weekend alive. The hotdog guy outside didn’t hurt either (and no, I don’t get the cream cheese thing). (LJ)

When we all had to leave Showbox the last day of the festival, it felt like a separation from something you weren't yet ready to part from, but at the same time everyone was so happy that it was impossible not to smile. Terrastock had been carried along on a wave of euphoria that I’d been riding for three entire days. Immediately after the lights had gone out for the last time I found myself emerging into the open air and seeing the other faithful few, those who simply couldn't bear the end, standing around on the street chatting to each other, hugging and smiling. It was an indescribable feeling of love, peace and cooperation. This is something that really can’t be captured in this wrap-up, the overwhelming sense of family and old-fashioned respect that overflowed throughout the weekend (which might have had something to do with the fact that many actual families were in attendance). (MG & LJ)

A lot of it probably also has to do with the fact that there's so many bands and musicians there, and that they also make up a large portion of the audience. It's totally unlike a regular festival where the "stars" turn up, play, sit around backstage for a while and then fly out again. At a Terrastock you can find yourself standing beside someone for a while watching a band and the next thing you know they're up on stage getting ready to play the next set. And because a lot of people have to make a big commitment to get to a Terrastock, you'll find they're the type of people for whom watching a band or buying the records simply isn't enough. A lot of them are artists, writers, producers, and record label owners themselves. Some long-lasting friendships have been established through the Terrastock festivals, and I'm sure some interesting collaborations, record releases and interviews have come about only because people met and got chatting at a Terrastock. It's much the same as I've always strived to do with the Terrascope; not simply a repository for news and observation, but a melting pot of ideas which gives as much back to the "scene" as it takes from it. (PM)To try to explain a magical feeling like this is bound to fail so lets just say that if you came to listen, you were part of something bigger than yourself, or that guy backstage, or the band setting up on the side stage. The fact that the music was so amazing was really just the icing on the cake. It’s the love that makes you remember. Terrastock was one of the best dreams I’ve ever seen come true. When’s the next one, Phil? "I'm toying with two different ideas at the moment. I feel like we owe Europe a Terrastock, having done three in the USA now (and one in England), so I'm starting to look into the possibility of doing something over there somewhere, maybe during 2002. Plus I've been exploring the idea of organizing a different kind of Terrastock at some point in the future... maybe not even called "Terrastock", but incorporating the same values and perhaps injecting some fresh ideas into it as well. Meanwhile I'm definitely taking a year off from organizing events in 2001! If nothing else it'll give us an opportunity to get some of the recordings we've made at the Terrastock festivals released, hopefully. Taking stock, as they say".

This article is a combined effort of Mats Gustafsson (MG), Lee Jackson (LJ), George Parsons (GP) and Phil McMullen (PM). Gustafsson directed the article and wrote the text snippets without credits. Many thanks to the contributing writers for making this idea come true. And let us finish with a word of praise to Phil and Chris Porter and their staffs, for making everything come off so smoothly. I hope the Terrascope lasts as long as these precious memories. Thanks for the time of my life.