Kildemose "kult" festival 2007
Blue Moon Party
fredag 29. & lørdag 30. juni.
KILDEMOSEFESTIVAL PROUDLY PRESENTS:
Fredag kl. 01:00
Free Ride studio-report is up on Planet Roadburn
Words | Jonas
We felt that our self titled debut album was a pretty good statement of what we wanted to do, which was to give a unique approach to heavy psychedelic rock. It had the dirty, straightforward garage rock mentality, the heavy, desert-vibe stoner riffs, the soft and wondrous melodic sensitivity and the spacy, mind-bending sound-layering of seventies kraut rock, all played with the looseness and freedom of a Hendrix jam session. We set out to do a kind of psychedelic heavy rock that tried to avoid some of the things that have become boring hard rock cliches, and combine it with an experimental approach that is more common in what people tend to call art rock genres, such as early fusion jazz from the seventies or modern post rock. To us it seemed, speaking very generally, that the dionysian and ecstatic rock mentality had been sharply separated from the experimental, frontier expanding mindset of the early seventies.
Looking back at it, it seems there was a vibe from the mid sixties to the mid seventies, where different genres and different mentalities were mixing, taking inspiration from each other and thereby creating new pathways to explore. The psychedelic rock bands were absorbing ideas from bop and free jazz, eastern, south american and african styles and even some of the early electronic experiments that appeared in the classical avant-garde scene. The jazz musicians were soaking up the unbounded, furious energy of Hendrix and Cream, while also keeping their ears open to pretty much everything else, old and new, thereby breaking the boundaries of what constituted musical structure up till then. This fed back in a reciprocal loop and influenced the rock musician's way of thinking. At the same time, some long-haired germans absorbed pretty much everything that was blooming up in the musical landscape and created albums that are still nearly impossible to categorize today.
At some point though, the wave turned back on itself and suddenly jazz was reduced to a pure technical exercise, a kind of masturbation for scholar musicians; heavy rock slowly settled into less intelligent goth-influenced cliches, where it has pretty much stayed ever since. No wonder that people are prejudiced against everything 'heavy' these days, associating it with banality, limited artistry, cheap occultism and hatred; and what Lester Bangs initially named "punk rock", to describe artists such as The Count Five, The Seeds and The Stooges in the sixties, slowly turned into a soulless, narrow minded kind of rock music based more on image and attitude than on real musical values. Strangely enough, this latter category of "punk rock" is what has survived, and is more elaborately lacking in content. Today it still flourishes as an easy fix for the tired, unimaginative youth empty bottles do make the most noise!
The blues, instead of continuing its influence as an authentic element streaming through rock music, was quickly reduced to a genre mostly embraced a by old geezers craving sentimental nostalgia; the avant-garde soon became a purely theoretical activity, devoid of it's once dionysian aspect, focusing more on the experiment for the sake of the experiment. It lost its faith in music and instead turned to post modern philosophy, where it could be talked about and theorized about, instead of listened to. Modern classical music, courtesy of the krauts and the electronic innovators, moved on to break barriers and create wonders, but strangely enough never really re-connected with the ROCK.
When one listens to Blue Cheer's "Vincebus Eruptum", Can's "Tago Mago", Jimi Hendrix' "Electric Ladyland", Tony Williams' "Emergency" or Tim Buckley's "Starsailor", one can't help but wonder, what happened? What happened to that musical landscape that seemed so endlessly fruitful? I'm not a sentimentalist denying the value of anything that has happened since 1973, because, of course, lots amazing things have happened in music since then. What I am referring to is ROCK, and it's importance as a dionysian path to a different kind of vision, one that allows a person to taste freedom in all its full, radiant glory. A vision that transcends the curtain of conformity and reveals a fuller reality where everything appears in its fullest essence, where everything is in the nature of the miraculous.
As the great writer Henry Miller said, "Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such." Rock has become escapism, whereas it once had the potential to be the great eye opener that evoked a joyful sense of freedom and allowed one to see Huxley's, "the divine in a flowerbud."
It seems people lost faith in the scope and possibilities of rock. Not only in the mainstream picture which seems to become shallower and more soul less everyday, but also in the underground scene where, the majority of people seem to have locked themselves into one category or another, each with its own set of cliches and unwritten rules. The ultimate result? Rock music has been narrow minded and stereotypical for decades.
What we set out to do with Causa Sui was to create a rock music that was heavy on the senses. A kind of rock that had the freedom, power and excitement of the early heavy rock of the late 1960s but with the depth and possibilites of more modern stylings. A kind of rock that hits hard and immediate, while still being able to surprise and seduce after repeated listens. Something that's easy to get into, but reveals a depth when one looks closer a mix of the known and the unknown. From the beginning we have operated under the thesis, "what could have happened with heavy rock if it had followed a different path in the early seventies?"
However, while our debut album revealed the first rays of our vision, we quickly realised we had to take a slightly different approach with our sophomore offering. First of all, we wanted to emphasize the free aspect of our music, creating more of the musical structures in the moment. A lot of the material for the first album was written beforehand. Secondly we wanted more space in the sound, more room, and a more nuanced placement of each instrument. Whereas some parts of the first album was ultra-layered, occasionally several noisy guitars together at the same time to create a complete sensual assault, we wanted more of a loose direction with this record, trying get more of an organic live-feel to the pieces. We still wanted the in-depth soundscapes, with lots of different timbres coalescing together in the mix, but felt our sound would be better with more space between the instruments.
Writing new material wasn't as easy as we hoped. Some of the stuff worked immediately but lost momentum after being played for months. We now realize the only way to go with certain pieces is to get them done and then record them immediately. Other pieces, though, need time to evolve, to be planted in good, fertile soil for months before they bear fruit.
Pieces like "El Paraiso" or "Newborn Road" don't reach completion in a few days. It's frustrating when you struggle with a piece day after day, without attaining anything that works. Theres a fine line between what is truly spectacular and what is plain boring. Sometimes you can struggle with a piece for weeks, trying anything possible, without as much as a glimpse of that shimmering red sun we strive so hard to drench our music in other times you just plug in and jam, and all of a sudden the whole room is bursting with unending light, spreading like a sunburst between the instruments.
A lot of the stuff evolved during our tour through Germany in March 2006. Due to the fact that the other band on the bill cancelled out on the whole tour, we could play without time limit each day. Night after night we jammed our material into oblivion, always trying to push it to the limits. Some nights it fell through, other nights the music reached indescribable heights. In the end most of the new material found some kind of shape, and it wasnt long after we got back from the tour that we felt ready to record what was to become "Free Ride."
We began recording in late May, but in the preceding months we had already tried out our new way of recording, setting up to get the sound that we wanted. Like the first album, there was absolutely no consideration of going into a studio and having other people do the engineering and mixing. It's an absolute necessity for us that we do everything ourselves, from the LP artwork to the mixing, and have complete control over all the material and the sound. I am still puzzled over the way rock bands deal with the sound-aspect of music production today. I really don't get the general mentality of what constitutes good sound. People spend a horrendous amount of money going into expensive studios with big consoles and expensive tape machines, hiring a good engineer, trying to get an "authentic" rock sound.
Personally I don't believe the way to get an authentic sound is to go into big rooms with with people you don't know and play your music wearing headphones in front of a plexiglass window. I'm sure it's the way to go if you want a big phony Rick Rubin sound or a lifeless, sterile product, but for us there's no alternative to just setting up the gear in the rehearsal room and capturing the sound of that room. The flaws [like strange rattling sounds, amp hiss and other surprises] and the simplicity of the setup makes the sound authentic. Unlike an approach where each instrument, and each single drum in the drum kit sounds as isolated and pure as possible.
Personally I don't give a shit about the whole digital vs analogue debate that's still going on. Getting a good sound is not a matter of whether you record into a computer or a tape machine from 1972, or whether you run the sound through a ten thousand dollar console, or not. It's a matter of what the instruments actually sound like and how the different instruments relate to each other in the room. It's also a matter of vision --if you know exactly what type of sound you want, it's simply a matter of trial and error. Maybe the reason why so many albums from the late sixties sound great is not the fact that they were recorded on tape, but maybe the fact that they experimented and that they didn't give a shit whether the mixer was in the red half the time. They kept their studio set-up simple, without clipping 17 mics to the drumkit...
It's so rare that I come across a rock album where the drums sound like drums. Producers have somehow forgotten what drums sound like - and to me, that's what it's all about! So many producers are still preaching about the advantage of tape over digital and so on ["oh... if you want the John Bonham sound on the drums you gotta use tape... blah blah..."]. Then, when you hear their work it sounds like Bon Jovi. So many people are prejudiced against digital recording, but often they don't know what they are dealing with. People tend to think that if you record onto computers you end up sounding like Coldplay or something, but whether you sound like Coldplay or not has got nothing to do with computers having a certain sound, it's got something to do with the engineer being a moron or not.
Actually digital recording is propably the most natural representation of sound. Sure, saturated tape can add an amazing 'colour' to the sound, but there's a million ways to add colour to your sound if you have the will to experiment, if you know what you are dealing with and possess the right vision to begin with.
When recording "Free Ride" we took a somewhat different approach than on our debut. Whereas the debut was recorded with an extremely simple setup using only very few mics, we recorded the basic material for Free Ride live, with eight mics in the room. We had gotten a few new mics and some new pre-amps since the first album so we could capture all the instruments at the same time, and Jakob had bought a brand new hand-built drum kit that deserved to be captured with more than two mics. We used five mics on the drums: a Shure sm57 directly on the snare, two condenser mics on each side of the drum kit at some distance, one on the small tom, and a Shure bass mic at the kicker head of the bass drum. The guitar was captured using a Shure beta 57 and a condenser mic, each at a different distance from the speakers, to have the possibilty of blending two very different sounds. The bass was captured directly from the line-out of the amp and all the vocals with a Shure beta 57.
After we had recorded the basic tracks live, we started the horrendous task of overdubbing. The idea this time was to have the completely rough live recording as the basis, and then add colour and depth-creating timbres on top of that, to maintain the dirty live feel of the recordings. We rarely overdubbed or changed any of the basic guitars for example, to keep the simple dynamics of what it actually sounded like in the room, but we added lots of detail to the sound picture.
To create a rich and nuanced soundscape that reveals new things each time one listens to the album, we used lots of congas and percussion, organ, flutes, echo and synth effects and heavily processed guitar layers. There are details in some of the tracks that noone will propably ever notice directly, but will still have an effect upon the listener... hopefully. This way of creating 'hidden soundscapes' is something that's more common in modern ambient music. In some of the pieces 50-60 mixer channels were being used. I edited and mixed the album over the course of a month, on my laptop in my small home studio, creating up to 15 versions of each piece, then spending a couple of weeks comparing the mixes, listening on different stereos, playing it to friends to get their opinions etc, and by the beginning of August we had a version of the album we were satisfied with.
Some thoughts on each track on Free Ride...
This is a great little piece, with a real sixties west-coast vibe: acoustic guitars, layered vocal harmonies, tambourines, flutes, organ and lyrics inspired by a poem by San Francisco beat poet / zen guru Gary Snyder. Some people might be shocked, or even scared away, by an album opener like this, but for us it was the perfect introduction to the vibe of the album; joyfully melodic, welcoming and devoid of the heavy rock cliches that characterize so much of stoner rock music. It's likely that if one doesn't grasp the vibe of this piece, they will be unlikely to comprehend the rest of the album, and will probably have more luck spinning a typical stoner record of wall-to-wall Sabbath riffage. There should be plenty of those to chose between...
The guitar playing on this song is directly inspired by the gentle and highly unique playing of the great Lee Underwood, who played on the first six Tim Buckley albums. Underwood is an artist who deserves more recognition for his work, which intoxicates and creates strange arabesques in the minds of everyone who digs into albums like "Blue Afternoon" and "Happy Sad."
Some time in July last year, when I had mixed versions of this piece and a few others, we went to a house by the beach with some friends; swimming all day, barbecueing and boozing under open skies at night. I remember listening to this piece that night, while the sun was going into twilight red, and gentle summer breezes swaying through everybodys minds, thinking "yes!, this shit has got IT!" I can only recommend everyone who owns a copy of Free Ride, to listen to it at night under a dizzy July evening sun in company of good friends and plenty of booze.
After the soft, swaying tones of Free Ride comes the ROCK. This is a piece of mad, young, barbaric garage rock; a sort of updated version of the sixties punk riffs of The Seeds and MC5 deep down and dirty as hell. It's a simple piece I brought to the rehearsal room one day, and within half an hour the shit was flaming! Simple, repetitive riffs with some swirling, spacy effects on top and some pretty naïve lyrics, inspired by some images from Herrmann Hesse's "Siddhartha" to go with it all.
When we recorded it for the album we just plugged in and got it in first take. We felt this kind of loose spontaneity would be a great way to follow the gentle, melodic opening track. It's also apparent on this piece that Kasper has evolved and grown stronger as a vocalist since the first album. For this album we wanted the vocals up front, with less treatment than on the first album.
This was one of the songs that took forever to get together. We tried a million different structures before ending up with this strange form. It opens with some magnificent drumming before going into a pretty typical rock 'n' roll structure with plenty of wah-wah guitars and thick basslines. This is the drum sound we had been dreaming of for two years! Rough and organic, but still with the clarity and nuance that Jakob's playing deserves.
After five minutes of threading around in slightly stereotypical rock movements, with some, at times, pretty lame lyrics [attempting to play with rock cliches, I guess], the whole song suddenly breaks down into what is one of my favourite parts of the album let's cut these silly rock cliches and get some REAL shit going! Jakob goes into a mellow, kraut-inspired groove, some beautiful spacy sounds that could have been on a Sun Ra album start swirling in the soundpicture, a little later two Ray Manzarek inspired organs appear, playing beautifully against each other, all while Jess is keeping a steady, simple bassline underneath and Kasper is reciting what is propably our most complete lyrical statement yet:
The sky is breaking/and the wind blows
A shimmering dream/and the moons cold gleam
Cool air inside your soul/watch the sunsets blaze and roll
Soft sighs and velvet nights/shallow cries and mad delights
The music gets more intense, feeling the madness coming closer, in fear and ecstatic joy.
I gotta go away/I gotta drift and roam
I gotta see the sun/we gotta get it on
We gotta get it on!!!
and the music reaches a mad, ecstatic eruption, with radiant wah-wah guitars and euphoric screams! From here on, the piece is pure psychedelic heavy rock bliss, going into some fuzzed-out soloing and some serious, skull-crushing riffage! I guess sometimes you gotta begin with the known to take off into the unknown, the cliché to create the new, the banal to create the sublime. Some magical moments can only come to fruition through a longer process of less meaningful passages. If that golden moment is attained, the price doesn't matter.
This is a pretty complex composition, and --like "Tijuana Blues" on the first Causa Sui album --this was a piece that wasn't written beforehand. Rather, it was created during the process of recording and producing. Like "Tijuana Blues", it generates a lot of its musical meaning through the soundscapes it creates. It starts out with some sunbathed ambient guitar-swirls before going into some classic psych rock noodlings. It's got some pretty neat Hendrixian guitar playing soaked in lots of weird effects and an overall vibe that's groovy as hell.
It really starts to get interesting when the instrumental middle-section appears, getting into a funky and mellow groove that could have been the basis for a Miles Davis jam session in the early seventies, with plenty of spacy old school synths and percussion on top, and some delicate guitars that recall the sound of British shoegazer bands from the early 1990s such as Ride or The Verve.
Jakob plays some amazing spontaneous drums in these sections, combining a Mitch Mitchell vibe with the stylings of some of the great jazz drummers like Jack DeJohnette and Tony Williams. Several treated flutes enter the soundpicture, swaying dreamily like palm trees in a balmy summer night above the rest of the musical landscape, resulting in a stunning celestial atmosphere that sounds like nothing else. Free form psych rock with a haunting otherworldly beauty ...Probably not the album's easiest track to get into, but one that will truly reward those who dare to enter its dreamy melancholic landscape, time after time...
Top of the Hill
This is full on heavy psych from beginning to end! We tuned our guitars down in straight C for this motherfucker. The overall rough, organic sound on the album is perfect for a burner like this. Heavy as a 10 foot wave crashing on the shore! We wanted to create a short, flaming piece that just grooved from the first note to the last. It's got some killer riffs and some cool, rough organs. We added a Leslie effect to the vocals in the last part, which gives it a swirling, mind-bending effect. Basically it's a healthy dose of Kyuss wrapped up with a good amount of Blue Cheer for extra effect and just a little Vanilla Fudge to add flavour. Sun-dried and ready to smoke!
Flowers of Eventide
The pearl of the album. Some delicate acoustic guitar playing combined with some mellow bongos, shakers and soaring wooden flutes winding gently towards the sun. Such a delicate little piece. It's like John Fahey and Leo Kottke jamming together by a small river in an empty landscape, while soft clouds gathers in the distance, creating golden showers calmly spreading on eternity behind the hills...
Well, this is the MOTHERFUCKER. With its intense power and richness of ideas stretching over the course of 15 minutes I consider this the centerpiece of the album. Like "El Paraiso" on our first album, this a composition that gathers all of our ideas and stretches our capabilities to the limit. After nailing this amazing take we all felt completely drained - this is as far as Causa Sui goes in its present state.
We worked on this composition for a good while. It's one of the pieces that really developed throughout our tour in Germany, jamming the shit out of it every night. The beautiful thing about it is that it never took on a specific form, and it still hasn't --even though we still play it in every live show. We spent days recording trying to get THE TAKE of this piece, which was by far the toughest part of the whole recording session, but by the third day of recording it we got a version that was simply amazing, and that's the version on "Free Ride."
Some completely stunning things happened during that take; the long guitar solo just came together as if through psychokinesis, all of us playing together in perfect harmony. And the overall dynamics of the piece are incredibly natural and free-flowing, which we always strive for, but often fail at. The term "solo" doesn't really do justice to what's going on in these passages, cause it's not like one person is doing a solo, and the rest of the band is simply laying down the background for it. What happens is that the whole band soars into a free, constantly-changing way of playing together. Even though the guitar might be in front, what Jess does on the bass underneath might be just as important and what Jakob is doing can easily be listened to as the central sonic element in certain passages.
First and foremost it's interaction. We never think about solos, but we think of it more like "freely morphing musical movements." When everything comes together in beautiful free improvisation there's no need to conceptualize it.It just is.
That's what the solo used to be, before lame scholar musicians and soulless "guitar gods" such as Steve Vai fucked it up. That's propably why the long, improvised solo has such a bad reputation today; of course there's no room for it in the mainstream picture, which is getting more and more commercialized every day; theres no place for it in alternative rock and "avant-garde" rock, which has been denying the expressive and ecstatical qualities of rock since Sonic Youth and the likes appeared.
It's hard to blame anyone for this, cause the "solo" has been doing awful things to mankind for the last 35 years! Think of Joe Satriani! Think of those unpassionate scholar musicians masturbating every weekend at the local jazz club! Think of hair metal for chrissakes! There was a time when doing 20 minute solos wasn't about showing off, or for purely technical exercise for the few others who understand the "difficulty" in it there was a time when it was about expressing something that could not be expressed through a strict musical vocabulary, something that could only happen in the moment. There was a time when it was a pathway to a pure unbounded euphoria through sound, when it was a way to transcend all things rational and enter a realm where every single second rings with eternity and everything glows and radiates pure existence. Listen to Black Beauty by Miles Davis, listen to Hendrix at Woodstock or on Machine Gun! Cause that shits IT!!!
Everyone in the band is working at the peak of their ability throughout these 15 minutes. Jess is continously playing inspired basslines and Jakob's drumming is nothing short of incredible. This is his very personal drumming style reaching its full bloom, blending frantic and powerful rock drumming with the freedom and mutability of jazz somewhere in between complete motor control and ecstatic chaos - Vincebus Eruptum indeed!. It's Keith Moon and Tony Williams combined, the complete opposite way of dealing with the instrument than what constitutes modern rock drumming, which is either stale and predictable [as in most mainstream rock bands], or sterile and strained [as in prog and metal]. This is expressive drumming to say the least. Kasper also delivers a great vocal performance one of his best, howling a much greater range than on our debut.
The guitars here obviously owes its debt to Hendrix, moving in constantly changing arabesques, wrapped in swirling, mind-bending effects, setting the shit on fire. In the long, quiet middle section the guitars settle into much more mellow, shimmering figures, recalling Jerry Garcia's playing on the early Grateful Dead records, or Stefan Koglek's hugely inspiring guitar work in Colour Haze. There are so many details in this track; lots of nice percussion, subtle electronics, organ, processed vocals in the choruses, and even some sitar strummings here and there.
Everything seemed to come together in this piece. Even the mixing seemed to come together by itself, without the usual struggle to find the balance.
It's a motherfucker.
Generally we are satisfied with the result of this album. Sure, it has its flaws, and some parts are better than others, but occasionally we feel it reaches heights where one can attain a glimpse of something truly glorious. Maybe next time we can ascend high enough to catch more than just a glimpse.
"To the restless ones
To all the gallant frantic fools
Who follow the path of the sun
Across blue waters
To distant mountains..."
Causa Sui Live at Roadburn 2007