Very taken by the Blackest Rainbow label at the moment, thanks to things like the Wooden Wand album I blogged about last week, the Beggin’ Your Pardon Miss Joan album and various Natural Snow Buildings projects.
A couple more good ones from them today, beginning with a split vinyl from Magic Lantern and a British musician called Ben Nash. Magic Lantern, and especially Cameron ‘Sun Araw’ Stallones from the band, have figured here plenty over the past year or so, and sketching out my albums of the year the other day, their valedictory “Platoon” looked it’d be sitting pretty high.
After “Platoon”, word was that Magic Lantern had gone on hiatus, Stallones concentrating his energies on Sun Araw. The two big tracks here don’t exactly contradict that – “Mosquito Coast” dates from 2008, “Long Way Down” from 2009 – but they do hold out the promise that there may be more to come from the archive.
Listening to these two, it’s strange to think they were recorded a year apart, since they work together so neatly. “Mosquito Coast” is essentially a percolating warm-up, a scene-setter, a jamming band coming into focus, which acts as a low-key overture for “Long Way Down”, a more obviously produced piece, recorded by Best Coast‘s Bobb Bruno.
“Long Way Down” is one of those heavy, trancey processionals so beloved of Stallones; an obliterated march/trudge with Crazy Horse beats, Black Ark organ and fx, muffled incantations and a thicket of guitars that owe something, at a push, to Funkadelic. It’s his familiar trick, but no less potent here.
On the flip, Ben Nash is a new name on me, but his micro-detailed, droneish pieces are mighty effective, too (the second, “For Johnny Standon/Caradon Figure”, features Cam Deas, who’s also got an interesting newish album on Blackest Rainbow).
Better still, though, is “Alchemy”, a CD Nash has out in collaboration with Sophie Cooper. Two tracks, each clocking in between 15 and 20 minutes, and both some of the best drone/out/free folk stuff I’ve heard in a while.
“Alchemy” itself starts placidly enough, a clinking and scraping meditation, with pipes and guitars, in the neighbourhood of the Dream Syndicate, possibly with some affinities to the Vibracathedral Orchestra. Towards the midpoint, however, it subtly shifts towards something more discomforting, as sustained keyboard tones come to the fore. “Natural Liberation Through Naked Vision” is marvellous too, initially dominated by some kind of disconsolate horn (I’m reminded of Kim Gordon’s playing on “Lightnin’”), before Nash’s guitar takes over for a lovely passage reminiscent of Ben Chasny. Need to find out more about Nash and Cooper, I guess.