Music that aims at the psychedelic has a whole lot of clichés to avoid from the outset and one big one that it cannot fail to acknowledge as its central tenet for existing: The Trip. It has to make listeners go someplace they don’t normally have access to, without taking a single step, make them let down their boundaries for a while in order to enter into a heady plane of intoxicating sound and dream the world away or anew. Trying to do any of those things without seeming ridiculous is not always a simple matter, and often music that aims for the outer regions treads cosmic territory that sounds either hilariously anachronistic and dated or just plain ludicrous.
I know that I like a lot of music that is trippy and loads of songs full of blatantly psychedelic signifiers, but the prospect of an almost-exclusively instrumental rock and roll band pumping out ether clouds for an hour or so is not particularly suggestive of an auspicious experience to come. Beyond the 4th Door does just that, fantastically, and is my introduction to Eternal Tapestry, a Portland, Oregon-based band that has previously released on labels like Not Not Fun and Solar Commune, as well as putting out cassette-only releases through Digitalis and Night People. Some of the band’s members, brother Jed and Nick Bindeman, have been part of the constantly mutating cast of Jackie-O Motherfucker, and most of them are involved with other projects: ambient and minimal home-listening electronic music, dub, drone, techno.
But as Eternal Tapestry this promiscuous interest in other forms and styles of “underground” music is only subtly present. This is heavy, often beautiful, rock music indebted to diverse German bands like Popol Vuh, Cluster, and Neu! for its sense of spaciousness in building transcending, ascending worlds of sound. While the structured rhythms give the music a sense of forward drive and cohesion, the long, winding guitar improvisations and thick, bleeding layers of noise create all sorts of chasms to fall into. There is a tension between the procession from beginning to end and the seeming endlessness implicit in the mixing and collision of sounds, and their formation of moments of serendipitous self-exit. And while “Galactic Derelict” is all about the smoky and narcotic, red-eyed moon-excursion, that is, about pummeling mind and senses into oblivion, most of the record, and especially closing piece, “Time Winds through a Glass, Clearly,” is traced out as a vast, empty space illuminated by wandering drones, bodies of noise, and flickering guitar lines.
This record is both attuned to what is happening now and a history of sonic journeys previously taken. Eternal Tapestry is obviously extremely intent on realizing the possibilities of improvisational collaboration, on capturing moments graced with lucid illustrations scrawled opaque and glistening by the subconscious enacting its chaotic will through the body’s memory and intuition, but this also strikes me as the kind of record to make you go back to scrounging around Germany for records with strange covers and related guitar meanderings, laced with the desire for expanded consciousness and a world more infused with dreams than currently available. The best of the American underground scene at the moment is quite clearly transfixed with the same spiritual force of music as a lot of the best music from the ’70s made in Germany. It remains to be seen or written what this all means, but Through the 4th Door is evidence that these forms (and their demolition of themselves) are still just as forceful and mesmerizing as ever.
Popul Vuh – Aguirre
Ash Ra Tempel – Schwingungen
Emeralds – What Happened