BROTHERS OF THE OCCULT SISTERHOOD: “Run from Your Honey Mind” ****

Recorded 2005


The Australian band appeared on the internet screens around 2004, proposing a refreshing, antipodean twist on the increasingly tired format of underground free bio-folk occult improvisation cum tribal noise (no kidding!), or drone-folk (now kidding).  What sets apart the impossibly named BOTOS from its English, American and Finnish predecessors is an uncanny ability to bathe overlapping frequencies in forms balancing with ease between realism and abstraction.  Their drones, whenever used, are diverging and oscillating, rather than doctrinal and static. 


BOTOS are a duo of Michael Donnelly and Kristina Donnelly.  Churning out new material on a quarterly basis as if they were trying to live up to analysts’ earnings expectations, the siblings invite the willing listeners to their seemingly effortless collective ritualism and smooth, quasi-trantric interactionism.


Over the last decade, many followers of the drone-folk and improvised outsider psych scenes have noted the apparent (and if anything numerical) superiority of the free-flowing Kiwi productions over the Australian output.  But the artistic success of BOTOS refutes the thesis that in order to meaningfully contribute to the development of this genre you have to trample the twigs of the forests of Kuopio, Kahurangi or Redwoods, sine qua non. 



Our Minds Blow Like Prayers in the Wind

And then there was chaos.  From the first bars, the combination of drum pummeling and droning is subjected to a singularly oval wah-wah treatment.  Yet the reigning ambience never leaves the ozone layer of shakers, cymbals, wheeze, and a room-level (linear) reverb.  Dry, tensile, firm drumming undergoes slow organization around the echoing reflectiveness, conjugated around mid-term cycles of demise and rebirth.  This is followed by high-frequency amp feedback, but the development (if there is any) is obviously devoid of any sense of tempo or harmony.  Instead, the duo masterfully optimizes a sense of spatial perspective.  Sonic reflections and the varying speed of diffusion define the aural limits of the output.  By contrast, the a-metric drumming and non-pitched percussive effects (mostly shakers) operate without any reflection.  These effects crowd the space nearby, slowly reasserting themselves through increased familiarity.  Meanwhile, the electro-echo sucks in the droning sources, displacing them into the background, irrespectively of the incessantly jerky percussive skitter.  The track remains stuck between these two planes – busy upfront acoustic percussiveness and quasi-choral, alien, surreal echo. 


Temple of the Sloth

The band reappears on a gamelan stage.  This is akin to the sweeter (semar pegulingan) version of Balinese music, sparse, serene and intimate.  But the Donnellys are not here to lull us to sleep.  Simmering vocal, clanging guitar, space drums and wheezing engine cycles distract us from the soothing hypnotism of the declamatory bronze metallophones.  The electric guitar catalyzes Kluster-like amp effects and deranged voices inject nonsensical phonemic material.  As if hidden behind an iconostasis, haunted male baritone behind evokes a dark, stern figure of an Orthodox priest.  The voice sources are deformed, reproduced on a tape running at twice the speed limit.  The resulting whining is entirely contingent on the ‘gamelan’ mood, which by now sounds like a very domestic xylophone.  It still has to compete for our active attention not only with voice tapes, but also with guitar condensations and a regular tenor drum beat.  Surprisingly, the a priori simplistic speed manipulations of the voice track make this a highly rewarding aural experience.  Another vocal track (1940s? in French?) is ground to a halt and choral stimuli are non-sequitur, very much in Stockhausen (“Hymnen”) style.  The gamelan scale returns to prominence briefly at higher speed, and with the pelagic company of Hawaiian guitar. 


The Flesh Shall Hang from Your Bones

The composition opens with another exercise in timbral contrast – the guitar reverb is being juxtaposed against instantly-dampened cymbals.  Guitars scuttle, skittle, swaddle and sweep, always adorned with short-lived reverb.  There are at least three overlapping, phased guitar tracks here, with some order meted out by the bass guitar.  This is where the rhythm becomes more regularized, leaving just enough room for a guitar tremolo and an occasional bronze clang.  The accumulation of echo guitar oscillations brings back the memories of Achim Reichel or Günter Schickert.  Then guitars and drums begin to crash, sock and snap with abandon.  The bass (or rather baritone) guitar loyally plucks on, underpinning the sparsely populated range, crowned with xylophone/triangles.  When a cascade of gutter guitar à la Glenn Branca descends on us, it does so in a perfunctory, almost arbitrary manner, never generating the regularity of rhythmic cracking.  Even that motif sinks within the percussive/echo guitar swelling of sonic anti-matter.  Shortly before the end, the dispersed sources of string-plucking and drum-flaying do their best to revamp the marginalized echo device. 


Run from Your Honey Mind

The 21-minute track opens with a droney whizz and a mallet-treated drum.  Sizzling drone oozes in and out, burring in uncomfortable, brown frequency.  Doubled in a drone chorus, it adopts a dubious quality of cosmic dust radiation, saved by alternatively glassy and metallic percussive effects and some electro-alloyed overtones.  Three or four separate strata shift loosely like in a vintage recording of synthesizer rock.  Slowly, a selection of drumming thuds builds up a periodic tapestry, initially distant and vague, but eventually decisive enough to frame the slow burning frizzle of various low-drone frequencies.  When the hovering drones ebb away, the drumming echoes back.  Metallic scraping shares this reverberating quality, but remains ambiguous, enigmatic and reluctantly multiplicative.  Haunting organ-sounds and occasional tam-tam clank amortize somewhat the a-rhythmic pounding, while the ‘motor’ guzzle contests for aural space with an extrusive echo, tribal drum rolls and converter ricochets.  The track gains on meditative quality as the drumming reverb and drone become completely detached from the non-realistic, echoing chorus.  The echoing factor eventually recedes, yielding to uneasy sibilance and recognizable, because hand-operated tools: shakers, clappers and gourds.  Electric guitar tremors define the final descent, concelebrated by self-reflective nylon string plucking and lukewarm gong overtones. 





The discography below has been arranged according to the information included on the available CDs and CDRs, but the recording dates are sometimes dubious.  The material described above stands out as a masterpiece and some of the more recent recordings raise the question of the artistic sustainability of such prolific output, but I reserve judgment on positions 10 -12, with which I am not (yet) familiar.



1. BOTOS: “Animal Speak” (2004)

2. BOTOS: “Goodbye” (2004-05)

3. BOTOS: “Lucifer’s Bride” (2005)

4. BOTOS: “Run from Your Honey Mind” (2005)

5. BOTOS: “Canisanubis” (2005)

6. BOTOS: “Odalisque at Secret Vortex” (2005)

7. BOTOS: “Suppress (Detached) Orchestra” LP (2004, 2006)

8. BOTOS: “Preying in Circles” (2004-06)

9. BOTOS: “States from Space” (2006)

10. BOTOS: “Mutact” MC (2006)

11. BOTOS: “Enter the Cult” 2CD (2006?)

12. BOTOS: “Temicxoch” (2007)

13. BOTOS: “Bill Burrowing Under the Moon’s Aerial High Above” (2007)

14. BOTOS: “The World Is at War” (2008)


BOTOS also appears on cross-cooperative CD “Chimes Against Reality” and a split CDR with Golden Oaks as well as several other compilations. 



Recorded 2005


Wizard Prison is a Seattle-based multimedia duo consisting of recording experts Scott Colburn and Ben McAllister. A self-declared ‘audio-wizard’ Scott Colburn is a musical institution in Seattle, with much of his fame owed to the productions of Sun City Girls’ and Climax Golden Twins’ records. He finally gained well deserved recognition after recording what probably was Animal Collective’s best album.



Inventor Ben McAllister is a computer music graduate with a career divided into (and united by) ventures into film composition, sound design and audio engineering.


Although Colburn’s recording style has arguably been focused on capturing live aesthetic, Wizard Prison sounds uniquely refined, if not overdecorative. Whenever it falls into the clichés of electronic rock, it is instantly rescued by the authors’ highly developed sense of space and considerable experience with a wide variety of approaches to both electronic and acoustic (microphones) media.



A mystical fable accompanies this record. There seems to be a Daevid Allenish mischief to it – at least for those who bother to read the story. And it is pleasant to think of this record as a ‘concept album’.




Gogon’s Family Conference

This is studio wizardry at its most unhurried, liquid and glowing. Warm guitar tones, appeasing organ and looped bass all benefit from stylized electronic misplacement. The thematic focus comes from an unexpected source. A Chinese kid declaims affectively verses by Wang Anshi, a poet from Northern Song period. The qiyenjueju phrases celebrate the coming of Spring and the radiance of the sun. Wang was a political figure and a failed revolutionary, and somewhat of a political tone continues as a recording from Communist China’s radio spews some venom against the reforms of Taiwanese parliamentary system. This is followed by snippets in Cantonese. I am not entirely sure if Colburn and McAllister were aware of the semantic content of the excerpt. Western avant-garde musicians have been using tapes with Chinese speech since at least the times of Paul Boisselet’s “Symphonie rouge” (1947), but the proceeding usually reflected little more than the fascination with Mandarin’s quadritonal form. Colburn and McAllister overlay scratchy, processed voices, with the kid repeating the Chinese line. But it remains drowned deep inside the dense, nocturnal atmosphere, not unlike Jah Wobble’s “Bedroom Album”. Colburn once admitted that he despises fronting vocal parts in pop mix.


Sao Palo

Despite being more uptempo, this track is sill mudded with those ill-defined Czukay-esque bass and drums loops, punctured here and there by an extra guitar chord. Parading snare drums and woofy organ portend none of the heavy metal guitar blast, which riffs out confidently with its bass underbelly. The structure becomes heavily fractured – electronically rich, but interspersed with anthemic choruses (most likely Asian female voices, but I can’t identify the language, buried in the racket). Tight, dry drumwork distracts from the groove, but the sustained guitar chords usher in a quasi-mantric mood. The distressed female chorus gets re-sampled, re-mixed and re-mingled within the guitar riff and intensifying glitches that wean an entire miasma of bleeps in the style of Yoshihide Otomo’s solo works. As a final accent, acoustic piano takes over, surrounded by cymbals and distant scuttling guitars, all served in a soup of drones. It fades away through the guitar reverb into an echo of nothingness.


The Word of the Imaginary Vision

A 1980s indie rock guitar theme is tamed here by some amateur choral work (sports fans?). This sub-theme crosses the riff line, destabilizing the dominant meter.


Tea Dreams

The drum-and-hi-hat work is so metric that one could suspect a frayed metaphor of an old-time chug-chug locomotive, with a siren. Clinically insulated Fender Rhodes note is being repeated ad nauseam, but without the grace that the Necks have accustomed us to over the last decade. This repetition imparts an illusion of ascendance but only because the rock trio core breaks it every 8th note. If there is variety in this track, then it is provided by some wailing voices in the distance, and then by the return of China International Radio Station, which re-appears pompous as ever.


Gugon’s Visionary Plan

Cosmic keyboard pulses meet spectral guitar, padded bass and innocuous drumming that turn this to little more than stargazing from a nighttime beach. An unexpected trumpet call intones a wavering “shakuhachi” song. Acoustic guitars turn up in purely supportive, rhythmic role.


Sunn Kill Moon

This longer (21min) track opens with pulsating, blobbing electronics and a throbbing bass line. Wizard Prison shifts scales effortlessly, as the largely discredited 1970s’ sequencer music would do. But the sense of space is limited and so is the range – none of the tempting extremes of high and low register that sequencer-based classics accustomed us to. Only tiny bells accentuate the cleaner side of well-rounded, doughy ambience. The bass throb does not seem to be entirely in synch with the sequenced line of the higher register, but the asynchrony fails to generate any vertiginous sensations that, for example, Deuter’s first LP did. Then the throb is left alone to fend for itself, and is progressively demoted to the nether regions of an electric motor. The interactions between mid-range and lower pulses become quite abstract and never adopt explicitly melodious mantle. Admittedly, 40 years after Morton Subotnick’s seminal bubbly electronics, this passage does appear a mite too derivative. Finally, a dirty guitar fuzz is thrown in and reverberates with a long sustain. In an appendix, a Michael Karoli-styled second guitar washes in repeated frames, pushing away the electronic canvas into the deep background, out of the auditory reach. We are left with towering guitar sound, not unlike on Steven R. Smith’s or Steven R. Lobdell’s solo outings. A slow guitar theme emerges from inside the blizzard of electronic effects. It turns evidently illustrative, with chromatic effects, alien bubbles, mysterious ostinatos, and sharp fuzz incisions. A sense of foreboding prevails throughout. Bass outcrops will suffer injections of intrusive guitar until the end.





WIZARD PRISON: “The Early Years 1972-2005” (1974-2002)



The “Early Years” document Ben McAllister’s experiments and film soundtracks.


Published in: on August 18, 2008 at 9:23 pm  Comments (1)  
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