Monday, September 27, 2004

Mental Alaska And The New Weird Of America



(Arttu Partinen and Jan Anderzén of Mental Alaska club)


Exposing the idea of conventionally linear time and associated moments of progress and modernity as an essentially arbitrary, artificial construct was always a key part of the psychedelic experience. It's no surprise, then, that from this vantage point, the way psychedelic music has developed seems almost ass backwards. As part of the never-ending quest for a vibration so deranging that it would unhinge your skull for good, the most exploratory of today's psychedelic musicians -- Tower Recordings, NNCK, Vibracathedral Orchestra -- have arguably regressed, abandoning technocratic modes and secondhand signifiers ('technique', wah-wah pedals, sometimes even electricity) in favour of going caveman. In place of the marriage of superhuman technique and outlaw noise pioneered by first generation cosmonauts like Jimi Hendrix and The Grateful Dead, wordless vocals, atonal acoustic jams, free percussive punk-outs and an approach to structure primarily informed by the huge ensemble waves generated by Sun Ra, John Coltrane and Albert Ayler's orchestras now dominate. The music has come full circle, a marriage of avant garde and savage mind birthing, a primal music that is formally precocious. It really isn't about the notes anymore.
- David Keenan in The Wire review for Alkuhärkä by Kemialliset Ystävät


Last night the local Mental Alaska club had from the States Black Forest/Black Sea, Fursaxa, Christina Carter, and the local act Avarus ("avaruus" is the Finnish word for "space", they only spell it with one "u"); combining folk, psychedelia, drone and improvisation. Black Forest/Black Sea visited Mental Alaska already last year. The duo of Jeffrey Alexander and Miriam Goldberg, playing guitar and cello respectively, did some serene songs, which got properly freaked-out in the end. Avarus did a Sun Ra/Godz type of improvisation stuff with some suitably silly sounds. Fursaxa and Christina Carter I liked the most, they're both one-woman acts and with very good vocals. A Native American-looking Fursaxa sang in a very strong voice (a psychedelic Joan Baez for the 21st century?) and played maracas(?) and strummed chords from her guitar, also playing and singing along to pre-recorded droney sounds and vocal harmonies, which sounded a bit like Gregorian chants, some of it very ambientish and quite mystical. I liked it very much, unlike two hicks sitting next to me who couldn't get it and also had to comment it all the time Beavis and Butthead-like ("this seems to be a freak night", "this is so 70s", etc.) To my relief it was finally too much to them, and they left. After the gig I bought from Jan of Kemialliset Ystävät, who was selling tickets, two of Fursaxa's CDRs, The Cult From Moon Mountain and her latest, Amulet. Very sublime. Christina Carter was also lovely, singing with an angel-like voice (somehow I started to think of Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star) and playing psychedelic chords with her guitar. I would also have liked to have gotten her CD, but unfortunately I was out of money by that time. Well, c'est la vie. A big hand to Mental Alaska guys Arttu, Jan & co. for bringing these artists to Finland. Kulttuuriteko.