Mudboy Hungry Ghosts! These Songs are Doors

[Digitalis; 2007]

Rating: 4/5

Inside the mind of Rafael Lyons lies a labyrinthine world full of ravenous specters. Lyons, who performs under the Mudboy moniker, has proclaimed himself the “doctor of experimental organomics.” On Hungry Ghosts! These Songs Are Doors, Lyons steadies his mojo hand to create spooky organ environments perfect for lighting candles and breaking out the ouija board. The cuts on Hungry Ghosts! eerily eep and ebb with conviction. Utilizing an arsenal of unusual and exotic homemade gear (of which the centerpiece is an old 1940s harmonium retrofit with a 1980s consumer electronics keyboard and circuit-bent and modified up the wazoo), Lyons melds the antiquated and precious with the new and disposable, combining air-pump-produced tones reminiscent of Pauline Oliveros’ accordion playing with electronic sequences, all looped beautifully in an apparent homage to Terry Riley’s all-night flights.

The opener, "Hungry Ghosts (Intro-Induction)," sublimates the listener into the middle of a grand séance. Subtle vocal incantations and whispers are layered into a ritualistic prayer. Regardless of whether Mudboy’s motives are to raise the dead or summon evil spirits, one should be aware of that very possibility while playing this CD. (Mudboy is in fact on record claiming this album is “all about the black arts.”) Lyon’s chants utilize bits and pieces of ancient forgotten languages rather than partaking in full-on glossolalia. As a swarm of bees descend unto the mix, little dub-like beats creak out. Could this be “the birth of doom dub” as advertised on Lyon’s website? Something akin to an aborigine club jam develops before being washed over by the sound of thunder cracking and wolves howling.

Back-masked vocals continue into "Swamp Things", which bears an underlying transcendent harmonium drone and reminds me of Odysseus drifting down the river before being entranced by the angelic choir of sirens, or perhaps of taking a deep toke of Salvia Divinorum and hearing the hypnotic singing of the sage goddess from another astral plane. "Wisher Man" has a sweet “feeding your lover chocolate-covered cherry cordials on a warm spring afternoon by the ol’ sawmill” guitar line, while "The Last Song" sounds like something you might hear in a haunted house or hall of mirrors. Elsewhere in this crazy amusement park, "Whirlpool Wwindow Light Nightt" takes you on a demented carousel ride as a wild-eyed harlequin laughs maniacally. "Shockwave!" could pass for Glenn Branca’s "Lightfield in Consonance" until it gets all psychedelic and is washed away by the tide as a drunken sailor lies on the beach singing a sea chantey of yore. "In Which the Sea Hag is Lead Away or We Are Lead By Her" is a perfect farewell piece, giving us a bittersweet close to an album that will assuredly leave you completely spellbound.

The idea of these songs acting as doors is a provocative one, a collection of runes or portals into the vestiges of the unknown, the Castanedan nahual we New Weird Americans are continuously attempting to achieve through our deep listening and drone addiction. A cursory look at the packaging reveals a crazily intricate (and slightly tinged) die cut cover, with holes revealing a psychedelic pattern beneath. Hidden on the CD is a video, "Othern Lights," which bears a similar motif. Patterns and undulations move gently behind an opaque layer that has been strategically cut up to allow us to peer through the darkness. One gets the impression of looking beyond the holes in the opaque and mundane to see the true swirling technicolor beauty of the hidden universe that lies beneath. Lyons' music seems to perform a similar task, opening your mind to the glorious inner world that lies beyond while always keeping it partially obscured.

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