Saturday, August 13, 2011

Review: gkfoes vjgoaf - Nature Eternal Striving (Inner Islands, 2011)

Sean Conrad of the wonderfully unpronounceable gkfoes vjgoaf  has becarving his way through the cassette scene for the last few years with warm, lo-fi psychedelic folk ballads. With the “upgrade” to the vinyl format, his sound has been getting more refined and cleaner. On his second vinyl, which is also his newest album, Nature Eternal Striving, Sean’s taking his vision into more ambient-based territories without losing the original psych folk spirit. The solid double LP set offers an exhausting journey into the water based land- and soundscapes.
The opening 2-minute miniature “Wholeyness” is a warm, synth drone introduction in the style of Lunar Miasma or Red Electric Rainbow that seamlessly goes into the main course: the 17 minute jam of “River Friends”, which employs Mark McGuire-style delayed guitar playing with gentle tribal drumming and the intro drone still existing somewhere in the back, giving an air of spiritual ambience. The following 15-minute suite “Ecstatic Mist” follows the similar path, setting some of the gentlest and most relaxing guitar loops to slow, tribal-ish drums putting the album in the territory closer to the New Age classics than the organic folky freakouts of the New Weird America. The repetitive nature of the tracks give it a soothing, even hypnotizing quality. “Pink Dawn Ritual” brings back a bit of darkness, a mysterious chime-filled interlude with a truly ritualistic (as the name suggests) slant.
The second vinyl begins with “Clouds Glide Through Me”, which sees Sean go back to his guitar-based beginnings. The 10 minute long ambient journey blends oneiric guitar melody with angelic, wordless female vocals to create the floating, zoned out textures in the style Roy Montgomery minus the effect abuse. Conrad prefers simplicity over studio trickery – some slight delay and reverb does a great job. “Clear Night Shining” again goes into the purely synthesized ambient territory with forest based field recordings strongly reminiscent of Ariel Kalma’s ambient classic Osmose. The closing “The Temple in Snow” brings back the New Age styled drifting repetition, creating the perfect mental image of swimming through crystal clear water in a rainforest on a hot, sunny, summer day with sun shining through the canopy (somewhat contrary to its title, but then again, everyone imagines different things when listening to music).
Sean Conrad stands in opposition both to the drug-fueled excess of psychedelic rock and the cold, soulless synthesis of many modern lo-fi drone/ambient acts. He seeks retreat in the simple, spiritual legacy of New Age and crafts it for his ends. He may be using computers and synthesizers in his work, but does not let them to take control of his music, leaving the human, emotional factor many artists tend to lose in the process of making their “natural” albums.