Other spaces: Down On The Farm (2021)

This collection, Down On The Farm, could never really make up its mind about anything.  It just kind of floated in the middle of a paddock somewhere, chewing its cud, gazing at the occasional fluffy cloud in the blue sky overhead…..just hung there, suspended in time, without really knowing what, if anything, it wanted to be.  And in fact I think eventually that was the point:  this album inhabited a space of “…..” .  Living in the country, as I do and have done for more than half my 56 years, one can often encounter a sense of timelessness, a dissolving of mind into the ever-expanding moment, and I amused myself imagining this album as the sort of music a cow might hear as transmissions from space, after ingesting certain local mushrooms…

My memory is suitably vague on this, but I think initially the first pieces to emerge were using the cannibalisation process – reconstituting some elements of earlier recordings, in this case mostly some drum recordings which I snipped, sampled and looped bits of to make some passable beats. Some of these bits had their genesis much earlier in 2020 and sat on backburners until they eventually evolved into Lightharvesting, Stealth Inspector and the offkilter Cloudsick.

Lightharvesting I & II were originally one extended track that underwent mitosis.  They both do essentially the same thing, II just dissolves into ambience in the second half – I just liked them occupying two positions in the collection, calling to each other across the space of the other pieces.

Two other cannibalised pieces took on a more restless, abstract edge.  Fungaljungal borrows percussion, jawharp and some slide guitar from Geeveston Gumbo (off the album Hill Tribes Of The Huon Valley Region), while disorienting itself with a pastiche of piano dirge, floating trumpet (courtesy of Malcolm Martin) and various interdimensional weirdnesses…..definitely a gumbo stew in its third helping.

Down On The Farm (Parts 1 – Thursday) was originally an improvisation recorded on my phone, playing my home-made slide guitar (see Threestringbox post). I’d put the recording through the mincer, resulting in 20 minutes of spacey weirdness that I reluctantly curbed to 6 for this album.  The slide guitar bears little resemblance to itself in these eerie shimmering undulations, more like spectral wraiths swooping around one’s head, and floating in & out of nowhere-in-particular is a recurring them on fake pedal steel guitar, for added incongruence.

The ‘fake pedal steel’ was created on a lap steel app I was noodling with at the time.  Some of these noodlings also resulted in three of the freefloating, rhythmless spaces on this album:  Utopiate Molasses, Murmurations and Grass Is Always Greener.

For me, the centrepiece of this collection (though it sits a bit left of the middle) is Ngangkari, and somehow for me the other tracks seem to fan out either side of it.  Ngangkari (Australian Aboriginal word for shaman) features the didgeridu playing of my old friend Kushala, whose playing you can also hear on walkabout VII.  I slowed the didg recording right down to accentuate its primordial textures, like a big croc watching just below the surface of things.  To me, this track is the sound of a certain consciousness, the realm in which the shaman hunts for dreams and signs.  This track inspired me to use an image I drew back in the 90s (Totem Man, chalk pastel) for the cover.  The drawing was from a series I created while exploring shamanism and other methods of utilising nonordinary reality for personal insight.

This collection is very loosely held together with a kind of psilocybic jelly, a Zen dreaming peppered with little bubbles of droll humour.  I like these pieces because they hang together without being hung up on how they hang…