(Winged Sun, 2011)
It’s hard to find records that are both transformative and transportative at the same time. A lot of the time it’s one or the other – the transformative ones do their work because of the time and place they reflect, or in which they’re experienced, and the transportative ones whisk you away from whatever you’re doing and open up whole new realms of being or introduce you to intriguing and unusual places you’d never encounter in the first place. Black Zone Myth Chant’s Straight cassette – don’t know for sure if that’s the actual title or not, but that’s what I see everywhere – does both, getting to the core of your being while physically relocating your perspective to both earthly and otherworldly places.
First, though, for the uninitiated: Straight cassette is out on High Wolf’s Winged Sun Records, and sounds like it, for sure. And although biographical information is insanely hard to come by, with someone suggesting in a comment thread somewhere that BZMC is High Wolf himself, I’m going to go with both the Winged Sun tags and BZMC’s Myspace page and call it a Philadelphia-based project.* (High Wolf has Brazilian and French roots – in fact, I’ve covered him in the columns of this hallowed site before.) But the proximity to High Wolf and his immediate cronies is not lost on the listener, as a tribal vibe, dubby loops, samples, and gratuitous repetition conk your socks off like the rest of the Winged Sun crew, a ritualistic form of music that’s more akin to meditation – “pyramidal meditation,” as High Wolf refers to his own music – than wigging out like, say, Foot Village. As such, if anybody asks you what Black Zone Myth Chant sounds like, tell ’em to go no further than the name of the project.
*That’s Ornette Coleman peering out from the cover anyway, so it doesn’t help identify Black Zone Myth Chant in the slightest.
But then, there’s a major characteristic of BZMC that sets its music apart from the others: The Voice. Yes, capital “The,” capital “Voice,” and I’m going to continue to call it that, because there’s no other way to do it and not be afraid for my life. It’s omnipresent throughout Straight, and it’s processed so low that it’s impossible to make out many, if any words. You know how kidnappers or other likeminded baddies in movies or on television dramas always use voice-altering devices when they’re leading the cops on or arranging ransom drops that make their voices sound unnaturally low? The Voice is like that, only an octave below the lowest you’ve ever heard. It’s like a god, and it beckons as it intones magical syllables. It’s dangerous and primal, too, lest you hope it lulls you into semi-wakefulness. It’s probably on a first-name basis with Reynard the Fox, or Loki, or Gozer. You know, the old ones.
We’re introduced to The Voice right away with, appropriately, “White Voice,” the most hip-hop-influenced track on the album, with its samples and distinctive rhythm – as good a starting point as you can get for something like this. BZMC hints at dub leanings quickly too, with the one-two (or, more accurately, two-three) punch of “Hit By an Invisible Arrow” and “Triangle COP,” each featuring minimal patterns and dank instrumentation, the former using The Voice’s bass characteristics to ground the rhythm, and the latter sprinkling keyboard over the shuffly rhythm track. I think The Voice is cussing up a storm on “Invisible Arrow,” actually – I probably would be too under such circumstances. And imagine what kind of arrow it would take to actively piss off a god – probably something mythic…
But things take a turn for the Zen, utilizing the repetitive structures and building upon them, as The Voice guides you through lengthier, dronier pieces, somewhat like an exercise in guided Transcendental Meditation. Whereas the earlier tracks don’t even hit three minutes, “My Glory Will Be to Sing Eternal Law” (how’s that title for a superbeing power trip?) stretches to almost seven, and features calming sitar loops and synthscapes over a beat that’s about half as fast as “White Voice.” And “Centre of the Universe” is an equally sprawling ritual, as it’s manufactured and deconstructed over a period of nine minutes – matter to form, then back to pure matter, the rhythm is gradually stripped away like the earth and corporeal reality, right before your eyes, and you’re left with nothing but the expanse of the cosmos, floating in drone, just you and The Voice. Yes, The Voice is still there, even when all else decays to its most elemental state.
And no, it’s not boring at all, despite the repetition, despite the length, I’ve hung on for dear life while listening, and come out the other side not realizing so much time is past.
If you’re going to download it, I’ve pasted BZMC’s bandcamp link here instead of Wicked Sun’s, as there’s an extra track, “Bonus Beat 3,” there. I’m a little unconvinced about titling anything “Bonus” anything – you see “Bonus Beat” here and there, but what does that mean? Is it such a tossed-off recording that the artist doesn’t bother naming it? Or is the artist too lazy? At any rate, “Bonus Beat 1,” “2,” and “3” are not mere add-ons. They’re worth the price of admission as well (whatever that price may be – it’s a name-your-own model). That’s it, rant over. What else can I do to get you on the Black Zone Myth Chant bandwagon? Hop on it, impress your friends!
RIYL: High Wolf, Kunlun, Voodoo Mount Sister, Iibiis Rouge