Witches and Pagans Magazine - Fall Issue 2010
Shamans of Sound by Melanie Marquis
Witches and Pagans
5 out of 5 Broomsticks !!!!!
The latest from Pagan rockers Land of the Blind, Shamans of Sound delivers. Tribal, intense, other-worldly, the music is the perfect accompaniment to pre-ritual preparation, shamanic dance or carnal pleasure. Cyoakha's strange and ethereal voice melts perfectly over Krystov's core-shaking didjeridu and Rhan Wilson's enlivening percussion and strings.
One of Land of the Blind's trademarks, the sounds on this album are produced by a wide variety of instruments, from the harmonium to the Egyptian Riq ,zils to fretless bass. The effect is reminiscent of trance and jungle, but with a more natural, less electronic primitive edge.
Highlights include keyboards by special guest Equinox on the tracks "Rattlebones" and the spooky-sounding "Shemana". Cyoakha's vocals do justice to Sinead O'Conner's "Grave", giving it a sexy and seductive personality. "Ancient Family" the album's opener, is eerie yet welcoming, pulling the listener into the sound of timeless magic. "Holy Trees" stirs the Pagan heart with it's images of sacred forests and mystical ritual, while "WWWWW" is very different, slightly funky.
All together, the album puts the listener in a borderline trance state, awakening those primal emotions and human instincts that run so deeply through our souls. Shamans of Sound would be great to listen to while getting dressed up for a ritual or a night out on the town, snuggling with your lover or driving in the car. Highly recommended for fans of sweet Pagan music, tribal beats, and the didjeridu. 5 out of 5 broomsticks !!!!!
Shamans of Sound Rocks!
Land of the Blind is really in their trance-y groove in their new album “Shamans of Sound.” Cyoakha’s vocals wind around the mesmerizing percussion beats, keyboards, strings, harmonium and didjeridu like an agile serpent. Rhan’s adds some lively and beguiling riffs and trills on the ukulele and guitars. And Krystov’s didj playing shines – he has become a true master of the ancient Aboriginal instrument.
Several of the songs on this album are very danceable – most notably, “Tamboura Lounge” and “Tribe of Dance” – and they are tuneful and full of interesting sounds.
“Ancient Family” starts the album on a dreamy note and invites the listener in, seeming to seek connections with kindred spirits both here and beyond.
Blind’s cover of “Grave” is an ethereal and thoughtful treatment, with the harmonium reminiscent of bagpipes. The vibe of this song—and its use of sitar sounds—also at times reminded this listener of the Beatles’ “Within Without You.”
“Rattlebones” starts out with some deep symphonic sounds on the keyboards. It’s a very hypnotic piece. “Tamboura Lounge” is a sensual piece with mesmerising beats.
I enjoyed the addition of cricket sounds to my old favourite, “Church of the Holy Trees” (although I think it could have used more nature sounds—some birds, perhaps?)
“Tribe of Dance” paints a fun, inviting picture of the experience of Burning Man. The ukulele adds a nice layer of texture.
“State of Grace” is spiritual and put me in a rather introspective mood. It makes a good intro. to the next song, “We Want What We Want” – a pointed commentary about human consumption and greed (not to mention being “good little sheep” while giving up our freedoms) with catchy beat and guitar riff and funky keys. Both of these songs are quite thought-provoking.
“Shemana” has a primitive and sultry feel. Love how the ocelot/critter sounds weave into the music mix. I am imagining shape-shifting super-beings (or spirit guides) lurking about the landscape, morphing at will.
This is a very earthy album, and the sound is a lot like Blind’s live performances. One can almost picture tribes dancing around the fires at Burning Man with bells and tambourines as they perform. It is lively and danceable even in the most thought provoking moments. All together, this is an enchanting CD that inspires me to move, smile, and get in touch with my more primal self.
"Shapeshifters...Edgewalkers...Never a straight line"--while these words, plucked at random from "Shamana", the closing track of the sixth Land of the Blind CD, "Shamans of Sound", could easily be describing the unpredictable journey this music takes it's listeners on, it could also be describing the two primary movers behind their current sound, Cyoakha Grace and Krystov (joined on this expedition by Rhan Wilson on bass, baritone ukulele, djembe and masks)
LOB has evolved from a slightly more conventional, though still very unique, eight-piece in the early 90's of Portland into a more tribal - trance based music that has become increasing focused on groove and atmospheres, accentuating the colours of the instruments, which come from various corners of the world, along with Cyoakha's soaring voice. A late 90's move to San Francisco precipitated this musical shift towards "painting aural pictures", and the new CD is a further exploration of these realms of Faerie Worlds, ancient and future histories that somehow exist simultaneously in these pieces.
This is particularly true on the opening track, "Ancient Family" where Cyoakha seems to be addressing both the audience and her ancestors, and it sets the stage for what follows.
This leads into "Grave". With each release, LOB has always chosen a piece by someone else to use as a starting point. This one began as a Sinead O'Connor song--word is that an earlier incarnation of the Blind performed it closer to the original version--since then, it has metamorphed into a hypnotic bass groove and didjeridu "duet", retaining the lyrics, but musically going to another planet.
Next, "Rattlebones"--opening, appropriately enough, with the sound of shaking bones and an odd, breathy keyboard sound, working into one of the most interesting rhythm loops of the album. Sonically, it invokes a sense of unease and anxiety, as the lyrics seem to be speaking of how witches have been misunderstood and maligned through the centuries.
While the less-is-more ethic has been prevelent up to now, "Tamboura Lounge" acquires a density of layers, dominated by a motif played by Krystov on the Dilruba. It is one of the most haunting and transcendental moments on the CD.
"Holy Trees" is a remake of a track that appeared on "Ordinary Magic". On this version, a high - pitched frame drum blends seamlessly with the didjeridu and the harmonium themes, yet the real stars of the performance are the crickets in the background, recorded in teh Oakland hills by Cyoakha.
Next, we are introduced to the "Tribe of Dance", likely inspired by the Blinds' annual participation in the Burning Man Festival. Here, a simple, minimal beat drives an accoustic guitar figure, evoking images of a large crowd of people dancing dervishly about a great fire, as if in a ritual from ages past.
From there, we are lead into a "State of Grace". Almost bouncy in it's 2/4 rhythm, offset by Krystov's didjeridu (which is outstanding throughout the album, particularly in it's role as a percussive feature). Some active, yet somehow ambient, electric guitar fades in and out of the shadows.
The guitar also shines in "We want what we want", an unusual mixture of '70's funk guitar, an '80's keyboard figure, '90's drumloop and lyrics that reflect the political landscape of the 2000's ---a trance protest song.
And so, we arrive at the closer, "Shemana", quite possibly the most ominous, monolithic piece of music the Land of the Blind has ever produced. Recalling " A little more" from"Ordinary Magic", as well as some of the voice-altering experimentation of Cyoakha's work with Black Orchid, "Shemana" conveys the feeling that Cyoakha and Krystov (and Rhan, as well) have already travelled to the worlds described on this CD, and are now inviting the listener to join them there.