Lichens Omns (Kranky) Release date: May 7, 2007
White/Lichens White/Lichens (Holy Mountain) Release date: April 16, 2007
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Curb Your Cynicism is a recurring blogtastic feature in which the music editor pithily enthuses about new releases and reissues he thinks will enhance your life and erode your cynicism about the state of music, circa now.
Lichens is Chicago musician Rob Lowe, whom you may know from his stints in 90 Day Men and a very popular band from NYC that's often compared to Pixies and Peter Gabriel. Those are fine groups and they undoubtedly help Lowe pay the bills, but to this listener, they serve as mere necessary distractions that allow the man to operate solo as Lichens, which seems to be his real reason for being on the planet.
Omns is Lichens' follow-up to his stunning debut LP, The Psychic Nature of Being (2005). His aim here seems to be generating as much spiritual chi as possible with only voice, piano/organ, guitar and judiciously deployed FX pedals. With Lichens, spiritual = spare ritual. Omns summons such masters of sonic profundity as minimalist composers Terry Riley and Morton Feldman, avant-garde vocalists Joan LaBarbara and Somei Satoh, free-jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock, and a particularly soulful Tibetan monk who happens to own a few John Fahey LPs. This is music for people with long attention spans who spend an inordinate amount of time pondering infinity and their place in the universe. If you desire inner peace, you could do much worse than to listen to Lichens every morning as you down your shot of wheatgrass juice and go through your yoga asanas. (Omns also contains a DVD featuring a 28-minute live performance from 2006 at Chicago's Empty Bottle. As all Lichens shows are unique, this extra disc is a nice souvenir.)
White/Lichens finds Lowe collaborating with Matt Clark and Jeremy Lemos, a.k.a. White, and it's a very sympathetic match-up. All three heads seem to be arcing on the same astral plane and oscillating in supreme harmony. Over five tracks, White and Lichens launch eerie, starry-void-strafing drones that are too magnificent for any sci-fi-flick director to use. This is turbulent, lost-in-the-cosmos stuff, all shuddering scrapes, fibrillating wails, and scathing gusts of solar wind. Whereas Omns plumbed innermost, cerebral/spiritual realms, White/Lichens radiates outward in intense orbits of disorienting conflagration, especially the infernal 16-minute finale, "Bael," which seemingly fills the heavens with hellfire. Space may be deep, but White/Lichens damn near fill it up to the hilt.