the invitation came in the mail. the same method of conveyance usually reserved for those seeking your money. but this was different.
there was no return address.
inside was a map to a recording studio that seemed to be housed in a bunker. attached was a typewritten note.
it read: "thursday. enter your mind."
I almost threw it out.
several days passed, my mind constantly entertaining the mysteriousness of this invitation.
i turned on the radio and heard nothing but brand names.
then the ads started.
i went to my computer and was bombarded with pop-ups and recommendations based on the opinions of another computer.
"enter your mind."
was that even possible anymore?
music used to be my portal to escapism and moments of reflection.
a bedside stereo shared hi-fi lullabies.
the most lucid of dreams.
thursday arrived and i left.
there was no time posted on the invitation. no contact info.
intuition informed this decision.
i needed this new experience.
discomfort be damned.
i descended down an old staircase.
the grey paint was peeling, revealing a truly odd shade of red.
i could feel the heat from the naked lightbulb as i opened the door.
blacklight enveloped me.
yarn was intricately strewn across support beams.
an inviting, psychedelic web.
the fragrance of nag champa.
the urgency of the creative moment.
the peaceful contemplation of the recorded art.
all these thoughts flooded my mind.
i was in a recording studio - THE place where records are made. the room was filled with instruments - both tactile and digital. the walls smelled of sound. every noise you heard was musical in this room.
a most sacred of temples.
i removed my shoes.
there were other visitors there. a former us army sergeant was on my left, nodding his head furiously to the music that he had just heard, but was no longer playing.
to my right was a dentist, clutching a camera ever so tightly to his chest. he didn't take a single photo - he just sat there, transfixed by his memory of past groove.
five aliens stood up from their instruments and approached me.
one of them offered me a cup of tea and a plate of food.
both were delicious.
another offered me a chair with its own unique vantage point. the five returned to their instruments and spontaneously began playing.
when they spoke, i dreamed furiously.
when they sang, i soared.
abstract poetry married to the prose of hip-hop.
you could feel the strength of the connection between these strange creatures. a hive mind. all i had to do was listen.
forty-five minutes later, i returned to my chair.
i didn't actually get up, but i was certain that i had an out of body experience.
had i been drugged?
no - it was the power of the music.
i felt relaxed. aware. charged. confident. who were these aliens?
their intoxicating blend of sounds conjured up images of the Coltranes, Radiohead, J. Dilla, Peter Gabriel, Lonnie Liston Smith, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan... a most strange, but wonderful of lineups.
the music i heard was improvised - that much was clear from the way it was played in front of me - but in this context, the computer and the studio were just as important to the sound as the band itself.
was it jazz?
was it jam?
did it matter?
i was afraid to ask. i couldn't confirm that anyone in this room even spoke.
the army man continued to nod.
the dentist continued to clutch.
one of the aliens then stood up and i heard a deafening thud.
he hit his head on a ventilation duct that was hanging quite low from the ceiling. he furiously rubbed his skull and uttered some choice words that i definitely understood. human, after all.
laughter filled the room, breaking the collective hypnosis. the army man and the dentist both began telling tales of the beautiful places the music had taken them.
while we put our shoes back on, i asked the dentist how often these gatherings happen.
"every week man. well, almost every week."
and now, a new invitation has arrived. in the form of a recorded album.
the future jazz sounds of mindswimmer.
what a title. what a band name. so perfectly fitting.
this is the first time i've heard that music since the thursday that changed my life.
the music is different from what i recall.
the vocals i hear are new, and clearly written to fit the music as opposed to being improvised over it. the lush instrumentation has been re-inforced with one or two new layers added on top.
the final result is stunning. a blend of post-rock, hip-hop, jazz, and jam.
it has since become clear to me that what i witnessed live, was just the first step in a deliberate creative process. improvisation blended with a little old-fashioned record production.
the music moves me still. and in different ways with each successive listen. as if it was tuning itself to the rhythm of my life at that particular moment.
now i can call upon this music on demand.
on those streaming apps, but not on the radio.
but if i truly want to escape,
i can put the record on and shut everything else off.
enter my mind.
ramon "chaco" bolgado
released July 20, 2018
performed by steve dobias, antoine johnson, natasha kohli, simeon viltz, and prashant vallury
produced by prashant vallury
recorded and mixed by steve dobias at SIGNAL
mastered by kelly hibbert at almachrome
artwork by natasha kohli
photo by mabbo
copr. 2018 stellar nursery records