There`s a great press one-sheet that accompanies the promo of this release. The text – which you can check out on the label`s Bandcamp page – describes how ESP Institute founder, Andrew “Lovefingers” Hogge first met pedal steel virtuoso, Raymond Richards. Both of them participants in an LA music scene centred on venues such as Spaceland and the Silverlake Lounge. Daze that saw the two socialize with Sonic Boom and do stints in bands such as Mojave 3 and Ariel Pink. It`s a lovely story, and a lovely piece of writing. I make a point, however, of never reading press-releases until I’ve listened and made my own notes. All I did at the outset was do a real quick skim as I downloaded the files and instantly emailed back an honest, but simple “Wow man, this is beautiful”. In hindsight though you can hear the history.
I came to The Lost Art Of Wandering with some personal pedal steel “baggage”. Me being me, it would be impossible not to start banging on about previous favourites – those Orb and KLF “chill out” interludes, Mike Cooper on FRKWYS, the mighty BJ Cole – and this, of course, is a record to be compared to, and rival those. The set, in the main, comprises slow stately pieces, constructed from slide and echo. Recalling the above, but it also had me reciting the kinda palindrome – “Harold Budd with Robin Guthrie – Robin Guthrie with John Foxx – John Foxx with Harold Budd” – such is its “ambient” depth. It`s an almost religious, experience this – Richards` prayer, his hymn, to the American landscape.
I`ll throw in another reference, that of Daniel Lanois` Acadie, which a certain Mr. Weatherall once referred to as a “trip from Louisiana to Shoom and back”…And then there`s Lanois` work with the Eno`s, and in particular, Apollo – the innovators` score to the only manned moon landings. Those steel strings, while associated with the down-home roots music of country, make an incredibly otherworldly sound. At once alien, but also somehow familiar and comforting. Hands, knees and feet bending 12 strings across 2 necks in a mutable harmony of unlimited glissandi and deep vibrati. To me that “voice” resembles the songs of dolphins and whales, and I wonder if their resonance isn’t encoded somewhere in our evolutionary DNA. A call from our ancestors – either from the sea, or from the stars. Anyhow before (?) you write me off as a crank, I`ll get back to the referential fireworks.
Alt. country licks move with Mazzy Star melancholy. The infinite guitar of Emeralds` Mark McGuire. A blues harp blows like a lonesome train whistle – the siren of a last steam-driven iron horse. Neil Young soundtracking John Depp – reincarnated as William Blake in Jim Jarmusch`s Dead Man – on a journey out to the end of the line – a meeting with Nobody and fate. Creating myths and legends – poetry – towards that last voyage, traversing the great mirror. On Roslyn, Washington, Richards is a one-man-band. Supplying upright bass, drums, and Spooner Oldham keys, in a slow Southern jukebox waltz – where Duane Eddy twang competes with a black and white B-movie theremin in a haunted Muscle Shoals dancehall. Creating something you might expect to find playing in David Lynch`s roadside diner as Julee Cruise steps into the spot and starts rockin` her back way into your heart. The acoustic strum, piano, and machined tick-tock samba of Fossil, Oregon hangs with the exiled Stones, Coming Down Again, after being way too high with Gram (Parsons). The melody on Livermore, California sounds like a 78 salvaged from Harry Smith`s Folkways Anthologies, slowed to a crawl. I might be crazy but it had me humming The Pine Ridge Boys` You Are My Sunshine. Synths blink like welcoming harbor lights, generate gently dancing toe-tapping twilight tones. Mid-western winds rattle the bells of cattle coming home. Idaho Falls, Idaho is a jauntier, jangled, brushed drum march which cements any suggestion that this album deserves, needs, to be heard by fans of Allah Las, Brightblack Morning Light, Khruangbin, Psychic Ills, Primal Scream, and even The Mary Chain.
The Lost Art Of Wandering is Americana – from the Appalachian east to the Cajun south, wordless Acadian ballads – filtered though the stoner rock and shoegaze mentioned in those Lovefingers notes. Ry Cooder`s Paris, Texas – itself built around Blind Willie Johnson`s Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground – via Spacemen 3, and Spiritualized. Riding an Electric Mainline. In love with that landscape. In search of joy, kicks and Pure Phase.
Raymond Richards` The Lost Art Of Wandering is this month, on ESP Institute.