Thursday, December 1, 2016

Yahowa 13 - 2009 - Magnificence In The Memory

Yahowa 13
Magnificence In The Memory

01. Camp Of The Gypsies 6:50
02. Nam Yo Ho Renge Kyo 3:53
03. Treat You So Right 3:25
04. Sunshine Man 6:38
05. Most Prized Possession Of All 1:40
06. Fertility Dance 6:50
07. Father Whistling 2:53
08. It Doesn't Matter What You Do 6:10
09. It's A Knack 2:10

Recorded in Source Family days, 1973 and 1974.

- Father Yod / vocals, kettle drum, gong
- Djinn / guitar
- Sunflower / bass
- Octavius / drums

Yet another comp of unreleased Yahowha 13 songs, drawn from the Family's archives.  While the quality of the music is generally high, the overall effect is diminished somewhat by the scattershot approach.  Give us complete recordings, please.
Tere's so much easily-found information about 1970's spiritual group the Source Family, and its musical arm Yahowha13, that covering it all in a record review is both impossible and pointless. Suffice to say that this fascinating community, centered around the charismatic Father Yod and his vegetarian L.A. restaurant The Source, was really into rituals-- especially 3 a.m. meditations. These were sometimes followed by jam sessions, often because Yod simply said "Let's play some music!" The result: nine albums released under the YaHoWha13 name in the 70s, all reissued a decade ago as part of the stunning 13-disc set God and Hair (a set curated by Seeds founder Sky Saxon, a devoted Source member who has since sadly passed away).

But much more of the group's music-- a raw mix of psych, improv, and spoken-word-- was recorded by Source member Isis Aquarian. Magnificence in the Memory represents a small slice of her vast archive, known to insiders as "The Lost Music". The album came together when Source compatriot and No Neck Blues Band member Dave Nuss combed through some of Isis' tapes, settling on nine tracks totaling 40 minutes. Nuss intended Magnificence to flow like an album rather than a sampler, and his work paid off, as the record has a remarkably consistent vibe.

How that vibe strikes you will depend on your tolerance for loose, meandering sounds, recorded with varying fidelity and overseen by a frontman who valued enthusiasm over convention or precision. For reference, the collective-based music of descendents like Sun City Girls, Bardo Pond, and Nuss's NNCK comes to mind. YaHoWha13's music sometimes sounds like rock, jazz, blues, even pop. But it's rarely anything you could call easy listening.

Still, you might be surprised by how interesting Magnificence is considering its origin. The Source Family had a lot to say about life and how to live it, but in YaHoWha13, the music was the message. So rather than opening with loud proselytizing, Magnificence begins with Yod's slow whisper on the slinky "Camp of the Gypsies". Halfway through, he suddenly screams "Let's Go!," and the band slams into raucous jamming. But even that sounds more like a cloudy seance than preachy gospel. When Yod howls "I'm gonna lead you home, but not in the usual way!," it's hard to deny the second half of that lyric, even if you aren't sold on the first.

The rest of Magnificence slyly dodges expectation. Wry humor dots "Nam Yo Ho Renge Kyo", whose anonymous intro is delivered in what sounds like Bugs Bunny's faux Asian accent. The clucking guitars of "Treat You So Right" bear an the odd logic akin to Captain Beefheart, while Yod's flute-like whistle on "Sunshine Man" creates an acid-soaked jingle. Sure, there are recognizable hippie moves here-- "Fertility Dance" is basically a drum circle, and "It's a Knack" is weirdo-folk in the vein of Syd Barrett or Skip Spence. But that doesn't diminish the warpy noise of "It Doesn't Matter What You Do" or the wind-and-drone duet of "Father Whistling". Even those tracks reflect the time period, but they still don't sound much like anything else made then or now.

The uninitiated might wonder whether Magnificence is the best introduction to YaHoWha13, as opposed to God and Hair or individual album reissues. But the group was so devoted to Yod's vision that pretty much everything they did provides a portal into their sonic world. Magnficence in the Memory is simply a chance to enter new corners of the Source universe, and future releases-- whether archival or new (the band still tours, though Father Yod passed away in 1975)-- should offer more doors to YaHoWha13's unique perception.

Yahowa 13 - 1975 - Yodship

Yahowa 13

01. As Above So Below
02. New Order Of The Eges

- Father Yod / Vocals
- Djin / Guitar
- Sunflower /Bass
- Octavius /Drums
- Zinuru / Sound

Coming out after Father Yod's death by hang gliding, Yodship comes off like a final late night wake around the preserved body of their Father, candles intact.

It's easy to dismiss most of Yodship as hippy jamming - imagine Parideswartsdull but with 66% less structure - yet actually it's subtler than that.

On Yodship, there are no egos, just a bunch of heads turned onto a similar vibe. In terms of a career move for Sky "Sunlight", releasing it probably wasn't that smart, but in terms of a TRUTH move, it's totally RIGHT ON.

In fact, I would argue that Sky Saxon's stuff with the Yahowha family was just as artistically viable as his stuff with The Seeds, even though only about 5% of Seeds fans have heard it. (If that!)

The first half of Yodship is late night chill improv jamming with voice, electric and acoustic guitar, bass, flute and tambourine. On it, Sky fulfills the role of a disciple quite convincingly.

By the end of Suite 2, things get even better, with the appearance of The Spirit of '76, who always strike me as a ramshackle jazz band - creating jazz the way Sun Ra created it - i.e. not jazz at all - but something living, organic.

For whatever reason, Suite 3 wasn't included on the original issue of Yodship, even though it comes from the same sessions. Instead, it was issued on its own in a limited edition of one!

When Suite 3 was finally rediscovered, someone said it "was so bad it's good." Well, people can dismiss Sky as an acid casualty, but fuck 'em, I think he was on to something right and true.

"Everything you gave us was like Christmas presents" Sky sings to his Father, trusting and naive, as only Sky can be.

The final part of Yodship Suite 3 is mostly piano, hinting at what Sky would achieve on the "Lovers Cosmic Voyage" e.p., another great recording that needs to be rediscovered.

When I listen to Yodship, I always feel nostalgic. What if the hippies had taken over?

Fire Water Air & Sky Saxon - 1977 - Golden Sunrise

Fire Water Air & Sky Saxon 
Golden Sunrise

01 Time Travel
02 Food for the Hungry
03 Voyage
04 Atlanteans
05 Go with the Flow
06 New Revolution
07 Wolf Pack
08 Come to the Ocean
09 Across the Prairie
10 Just Moving On
11 Celebration

In the mid 1970s, the former leader of The Seeds, Sky Saxon (then Arelich Sunlight Aquarian), joined forces with the musicians of the Brotherhood Of The Source, Ya Ho Wha 13, to form Fire Water Air. They produced only one recording: the legendary 'Golden Sunrise', which was originally released in small number of on 8-track cartridge. It is presented here fully re-mastered for the first time and includes an insert written for this release by guitarist Djin Aquarian.

With the late Father Yod no longer a factor, the musicians in Fire, Water, Air (who had been involved in the releases by Yahowa) could get down to the business of being, more or less, an actual rock band. A rock band not like many or any others, of course, but nonetheless a group that was not hindered by Yod's inept vocals or scattered mystical lyrics. Considering the 1977 release date, it comes across as timewarped, way-underground psychedelia at least five years out of synch with the times (not a bad thing, just an observation). As was usually the case with the Father Yod/Yahowa projects, songs and melodies are not the musicians' strengths. What matters more is the overall vibe. Distorted guitar riffs and tribal rhythms comprise the jammy template upon which the players unleash half-inspired, half-unfocused, spaced-out hard acid rock. The harder-rocking tunes here, though more professional than those on the Yahowa LPs, tend to be meandering and uninteresting, the highlights as usual supplied by Djin Aquarian's unpredictable assortment of ghostly high-voltage guitar tones. Sky Saxon sings on some of this stuff, and though the credits don't specify which tracks, it's probably on the bluesiest, albeit most humdrum, ones. Actually, the standouts are the acoustic Neil Young soundalikes near the end ("Across the Prairie" and "Just Moving On"), as well as the eerie closing chant-song "Celebration," with its echoing vocals and mournful violin.

Ya Ho Wa 13 - 1975 - The Operetta

Ya Ho Wa 13 
The Operetta

01. The Operetta 1 (22:52)
02. The Operetta 2 (14:47)
03. The Operetta 3 (13:31)
04. The Operetta 4 (6:02)
05. The Operetta 5 (10:24)
06. The Operetta 6 (4:59)

- Father Yod / Vocals
- Djin / Guitar
- Sunflower /Bass
- Octavius /Drums
- Zinuru / Sound

Spread over four sides of album this singular occurrence (recorded 1974) features some of the most crazed output from Father Yod and The Family. I was wary of this issue as I suspected the sound quality might be poor and that the barrel was being scraped. The sound quality is very good and the music definitely in the same league as their other releases. The gatefold LP comes with a pseudo-transcript of the events in the San Francisco warehouse where this was recorded early in the morning, documenting some of the spontaneous lyrics. So it is possible, although perhaps not desirable, to attempt to ‘make sense’ of it all. As the LP progresses the sound becomes increasingly liquid, pounding and intense. The sensation when listening is of becoming completely lost in the sound, utter dissolution occurs. There is always form in the chaos. However, all form is regularly lost, only to be pulled back from the edge by Father Yod mustering the might of His Sons from the Good Ship Yod. These fellows sail some dangerous high seas. The wild drumming really makes this recording stand out as it is right at the forefront. Hallmark feedback and demonic guitar solos vie with Father Yod on superb, raving, form. I would rate this somewhere between “Penetration” and “Golden Sunrise”. The demented trumpet of Golden Sunrise is deployed to devastating effect here, just where you least expect it. Occasionally, it sounds like a more ‘live’ version of “I’m gonna take you home”. And so, it only remains to be said: “It is time for a mating.” “Get it on with the tree.” (