THE GOLDEN OAKS Vs BROTHERS OF THE OCCULT SISTERHOOD (ROUND #1)
Time Lag Records are on a righteous roll right now. The latest jewel in their crown is this terrific little CD-r package split between The Golden Oaks and Brothers of The Occult Sisterhood:
The Golden Oaks are aptly named: their two instrumental tracks have a dark earthen shine to them that reminds me of bronze and old burnished brass; complex sound-objects that rotate inside your ear-space, slowly revealing their facets in new permutations…an array of antique-metal inlays that catch the late-afternoon sunshine as they turn, twist and spin; no two rotations exactly alike.
"Sweet Kentucky Ragas" is perfectly named: a joyous Bluegrass stomp arranged for sitar and sarangi, performed by blissed-out, dungaree-wearing disciples of Vishnu. This track somehow succeeds in being both transcendental and earthy at the same time: a moonshine/moon-age hoedown...an astral breeze blowin' thru the back-porch of a temple.
"Extracted From the Silver Meadow" is more stately and measured: roll a cigarette and sit out in the garden on the ruined remains of an old sofa while you contemplate the slow roll of the stars through the sky above. Tranced-out tambura-like drones underpin various plucked and bowed instruments as they pick out a series of slow, over-lapping patterns. At some point the action shifts from its imaginary geo-psychological Georgia/Goa archetype-space and temporarily relocates to a Greek Taberna suspended deep within the Vedic void. This is great stuff; perfect early-evening outside-listening during the UK’s recent heat-wave…
So, anyways, I was trawling Google for some info on the Garm album recently when I stumbled on the wonderous Foxy Digitalis site and blog (which will now be taking up permanent residence on my links…). Imagine my pleasant surprise and bemusement when I find that (a) the Foxy blog links to my fellow Acid Folk cohort Loki over at Idiots Guide, and (b) its author Brad Rose is one half of The Golden Oaks, along with Keith Wood of Hush Arbors. No such thing as a coincidence, I reckon.
Suffice to say: Foxy Digitalis is a damn fine label, so get on over there toot sweet, my little slobbering beauties, and spend yr hard-earned moolah on some of the lysergically-challenged goodies on offer. Mark my words: you’ll be kicking yourself in 15 years, if you don’t. Yet more evidence (as if you needed it) that we are currently living in the midst of a veritable Musical Golden Age… alriiiight, so you missed out because y’r too young to have experienced Krautrock/Punk/Acid House/(delete as applicable)? Okay, so what’s yr excuse now? Start checking some of this stuff out; this shit is crucial, man. Loki will back me up on this…see! two of us: that’s virtually a consensus…now, get digging, fool, or have I gotta rub your nose in your own excrement again. Ttt!
Okay, soapbox packed away for now…time now for me to shut the fuck up and let Brad talk about his music…Thanks to him for taking time out from his mental-hectic schedule to gracefully answer my foolish fan-boy questions:
About yr stuff...I was interested in the Eastern/Indian vibe to your tracks on the split CR-r...I love that blending of Indian sounds with Country/Americana/Bluegrass...what lead you to go for that particular sound...?
BR: The Eastern/Indian thing... yeah, it's not something we'd previously explored on any Golden Oaks stuff. I'm not even sure HOW it happened, other than it just kind of did. Those two tracks on the split were recorded during one monster-session when Keith was out in Tulsa (our first album was done through the mail), and were sort of just a result of a lot of what I'd been listening to at the time. Being from Oklahoma, I've grown up with country and bluegrass music around me. Keith's from Virginia, so it's kind of the same with him. I'd also been listening to a lot of the Sublime Frequencies stuff at the time. I should also give credit to Matt Valentine... it was right around then that I heard the first of the MV&EE "Rural Ragas" discs, and the whole sound that the phrase "rural raga" put in my head was a powerful one. I think it all just sort of melted together that weekend and we ended up with some very weird combinations. But I also feel like it's some of the best stuff we've ever done.
Was it just you and Keith on those songs...? It's got a great ensemble feel to it ...loads of live ambience...
BR: It is just Keith and I on these songs. "Sweet Kentucky Ragas" - the banjo and bouzouki (that's the thing that sounds like a sitar on there) were recorded live in one take, and then we overdubbed percussion and violin after the fact. "Extracted From the Silver Meadow," however, is all live with no overdubs. We just kind of scattered instruments around and moved through them as we went.
Were you just using 'eastern' instruments on those tracks or were they actually modified 'western' instruments...?
BR: As previously mentioned, "Sweet Kentucky Ragas," utilised banjo and bouzouki mainly, but there's also violin, bongos, and various other bells and rattles. I think may have used some bamboo wind-chimes on it too. Heh! As for "Extracted…" hmm... let me think… there was a lot of stuff. Harmonium, shruti box, recorder, oud, bouzouki, violin, and then various bells again. So, kind of a combination of eastern and western stuff…
I'm interested in how you personally might describe the music that you make...I know some artists aren't happy being tagged "Acid Folk", "Free Folk", "Nu Psych" or whatever... there's definitely a global network of like-minded artists at work here, but it's hard to pigeonhole anything that includes such a wide variety of different people and sounds…
BR: Ah, that's a tough question. I don't get bent out of shape over labels like I see a lot of people doing. They can have value if used in context and sparingly. I recognise that it can serve a purpose and I have no interest in being self-righteous and acting as though I am above such labels. That being said, I can't stand the phrases "wyrd folk" or "freak folk" - I think those are pretty stupid. I'm very much influenced by folk music, though, and think most of this stuff has heavy folk-leanings. Maybe 'organic folk' or 'organic psych' is appropriate as I have a very strong affinity towards using natural elements and/or creating the feeling of something very terrestrial.
How did you and Keith hook up and start making music together? I’m kinda intrigued how the making music via the mail thing works...
BR: Keith and I met through the Routes for War & Travel list - he posted a message last year saying that if anyone wanted to hear his stuff, to email him and he'd send them a CD-R. As soon as I heard the stuff he sent (which was the "If There Be Spirits, Let Them Come" 3" and the self-titled CD-R), I knew Hush Arbors was something quite special. We just started emailing and late in 2004 decided we should try to do some kind of project together. It began with me sending him a CD-R with a few unfinished tracks and rough sketches of songs, and then he added to them and sent me some unfinished pieces he'd been working on and I did the same. Mostly we trade CD-Rs with WAV files and go from there layering stuff and trying to mix it so that it sounds cohesive. Keith records on 4-track, so he has to load them onto a tape. I record on my computer so it's a lot easier for me. The end result of those first sessions was the "Autumn Testament" album.
In March of this year, Keith came out to Tulsa for a long weekend and the end result was the split CD-R and our CD-R "We Enter These White Woods." There's still some other stuff leftover that will probably end up on our next CD, "In the Rushes We've Become" (due sometime in late 05/early 06 on Music Fellowship). But Keith is definitely a kindred spirit and The Golden Oaks has inspired me to take on a whole bevy of postal-collaborative projects.
How do you logically sub-divide stuff into your different musical projects (like Sun Milk, The Golden Oaks)...is it by personnel, or by vibe, or just an arbitrary thing...?
BR: It's purely a personnel thing thus far. The Golden Oaks are just Keith Wood and I... Sun Milk is Keith, my wife Eden, and I... and so on. Though I'm working on two solo projects currently, The North Sea (which is my main focus) and the recently started Skullsplitter, which is much, much heavier. The only reason I split that into two things is because they're so vastly different that it'd be kind of misleading to house them under the same name, I think.
The North Sea stuff...it kind of drifts between moods. Lately it's been mostly acoustic based with vocal elements and field recordings. I've done some more esoteric electric stuff as well as solo piano improvisations, but it's mostly a more folk-based/acoustic thing lately. Here's some samples: http://www.digitalisindustries.com/ns_mm.html
…and one from my forthcoming CD:
Is there a good local audience for what you do, places where you can play so you can build a scene, etc. Or are you working in isolation?
BR: We're in Oklahoma…there's not much happening and not really anywhere to play in Tulsa (Oklahoma City, two hours west of here, is a bit better). In Tulsa, I am somewhat isolated, but I've been discovering like-minded people in the area over the past year. It's lead to me to believe there's actually more of us here than I previously believed, but there is just no outlet or place for us to go. This is something I plan on changing in the next 18 months.
Something kind of pertaining to me, Keith, and Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood, which might warrant a mention…there will be a 3-way split CDR release out in the next few weeks on Barl Fire Recordings between our three solo projects - the North Sea, Hush Arbors, and Terracid... sort of a sister-release to the time-lag split, at least in my mind!
Oh! and I highly, HIGHTLY recommend the recent 'rural ragas' vols 1, 2 & 3 that MV&EE released. I think it's the best MV&EE stuff so far… just read your blog entry on the new Kuupuu 7" - very nice! There are few people who I adore more than Jonna Karanka! It's unfortunate that all the other Kuupuu stuff is currently out-of-print. I'm currently trying to talk Jonna into letting me do a CD reissue that will include the 3" I did on Foxglove last year and the cassette she did on Nid-Nod. Guess we'll see... I'll finally get to meet her in person in September, so I'll have to turn up the charm to get her to say yes. ;) ... Are you familiar with the Islaja and Lau Nau stuff too? Man, there's so much great Finnish stuff around these days it's kind of daunting…
Lau Nau...? Yeah, by coincidence I just got a nice vinyl of "Kuutarha" 2 or3 weeks ago on Locust, a US label. I like it a lot. Very atmospheric...Lau's got a lovely voice...very unusual.
BR: yeah, that Lau Nau album is really, really great... one of my favourites this year so far. If you haven't yet, check out these mp3s:
...Hertta Lussu Assa being a new band comprised of Kuupuu, Lau Nau, and Islaja. That 2nd mp3 is actually going on the 3 CD compilation I'm doing, but damn... they're good.
Ok, I need a cold beer before I sweat to death here…
Cheers, Brad. Be sure to check out both his and Keith's sites, folks. You won't be disappointed. And, hopefully, some stuff to follow soon on Brothers of The Occult Sisterhood, just to get their side o'the story...