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Meditation In Space: Fred Laird’s Empty House, Dave Read’s El Hombre Al Agua, Chino Burga’s Invokaciones, and Angad Berar’s A Broadcast Under Water.

Space rock vs. meditation…a good pairing?

Through all the noise of daily life, the constant pull of social media, the wars that are fought allover the world, the stress of pandemics and the worries about climate change, it would seem like a good idea to escape everything and push all of those things away and out of your head. In stead of constantly being on edge about everything it would seem like a better idea to try to live in the moment, with nothing more than your senses. Try for a second to just sense your surroundings without judgment. It seems impossible. And yet, mindfulness and meditation are based on that principle; to live in the moment and to empty your mind. Some musicians are aware of this, and they write music to accompany this idea. In this article I tried to experience a meditative state while listening to their music, and I asked the makers about their own experiences.

El Hombre Al Agua- Memories Can Be Injected (2022, Echodelick Records/Up In Her Room Records)

El Hombre Al Agua

Starting off with Dave Read’s solo project El Hombre Al Agua, basically the reason why I came up with the idea in the first place. Very differently from his work in bands like Moths & Locusts or Annunaki, Read here completely lets go of the principle of the “song” and simply goes with the flow, letting the sounds, bleeps, and effects do the talking. Is it music for meditation? Well, the first track is called Three Minute Meditation, which features a singing bowl, and a deep male voice telling us to “relax” and how to breathe. I tried this, and it works! Closing my eyes, and breathing in deeply twice, then letting go I got in the right mood to let the other songs wash over me in a very dreamy mental state as well. I wouldn’t directly say I was already meditating, but I was definitely listening more intensively and with full attention. I have to say though, the exercise worked better with the tracks without any rhythmic throb or beat, especially on the title track Memories Can Be Injected that got a little in the way of my quiet state of mind.

Do you meditate, what brought you into contact with it?  

I do meditate, in my own personal way, generally just taking time daily for mindfulness and reflection. It helps me calm my mind and focus on whatever needs focussing on.  I have a bunch of meditation LPs in my collection, some I’ve had for many years, I guess you could say that’s how I got into it.  That and reading people like Thich Nhat Hahn who inspire me to pursue the best life possible for myself and others.

In what way does (your) music play a role in meditation? 

 I apply breathing and repetition exercises in both music and meditation, and I find drone music in particular is especially receptive to using these techniques.  I’m a big fan of long form musical pieces that slowly ebb and flow, they feel like the musical equivalent of meditation.  I also take inspiration from old 1970s New Age spiritual guru type records.

Can you describe the importance of meditation in your life and in general? 

It is something that helps me keep calm and focussed, not an easy task in today’s society.  I find it’s important to take a few moments each day for meditation, it helps me stay positive and productive.  Ram Dass introduced me to the philosophy of Be Here Now.

Do you have any tips/tricks for starters? 

 John Lennon says it best, ‘Turn off your mind and float downstream’

Anything you would like to add, names to drop, etc  

Check out Ram Dass, Sufi Inayat Khan, Thich Nhat Hahn, Chino Burga, Wasted Cathedral, Ravi Shankar, Brian Eno and Sunn O)))

Empty House- Blue Bamboo (2022, self-released)

Empty House- Blue Bamboo

For my next exercise I used the latest Empty House release Blue Bamboo by UK psych wizard Fred Laird, also known for his work in space rock band Earthling Society and his current endeavor Taras Bulba (which featured on this blog twice before). Needless to say I am a big fan, and follow his ever growing creative outlets under various different monikers with great interest.

For Blue Bamboo he wrote: “Blue Bamboo consists of four improvised pieces for meditation or total chill out. Recorded over a few days in February and built upon drones created by the organ through a dream pedal or Tanpura box. The tracks were then splashed with colour and hues with treated piano, shakuhachi flute, bells, synth, field recordings and other instruments. Inspired by my faith in Buddhism as well as the music of Eno, David Sylvian, Midori Takada and Popol Vuh – Blue Bamboo is 30+ minutes of escape from a bullshit warmongering climate.”

And so I prepped myself with the breathing instructions I gained from Dave Read’s Three Minute Meditation and dove right in. The music on Blue Bamboo is very tranquil, very open, and less focussed on spacing out. Perhaps its more written about spacing “in” if you catch my drift. There are lots of beautiful moments to ponder about, similar to taking a morning forest walk and really taking in the beauty of what you see. Like El Hombre Al Agua, some spoken word is used, which adds to the experience, and can be pushed aside if you will your mind to it. Thirty minutes later I return back into my room. I open my eyes and for a moment think of nothing. I think I succeeded.

Fred adds: I started practicing meditation from the date the first lockdown began in March 2020. Whilst my employers where wondering what to do with the work situation and the rest of civilisation thought we were entering the opening chapters of Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’, my lazy old self thought it was ample time to kick back and practice some Chi breathing and other relaxing pursuits. I started reading the books of Taoist master Mantak Chia which taught you how to develop the cosmic orbit meditation. This technique is performed by breathing through the naval similar to how an unborn child breathes when attached to the umbilical cord, or when you see an infant breathe and the tummies extend because they still have the antenatal instinct. This enables you to fully engage your lungs rather than a fraction of what adults use. Apparently you lose the art of how to truly breathe.

However as normal life starts to come back and crush your spirit, trying to put 30 minutes aside to stare at a wall and breathe like a baby starts to become an impossibility.

Instead I incorporate meditation into other concepts. I put 20 minutes core exercise into my routine 4 times a week. This involves a number of abdominal and leg exercises that are pretty steady and usually performed to music. I prefer Brian Eno’s ambient albums or Tony Scott’s ‘Music for Zen Meditation’ which is an absolute classic. I started to paint in watercolours to music as well. A lot of my paintings feature clouds and blue skies, pretty aimless images, bamboo, flowers that kind of thing. I like to listen to Susuma Yakota’s Sakura album, Midori Takada, Mkwaju Ensemble or Popol Vuh whilst I paint.

As I practice martial arts, I use the poomsae which is the patterns you learn for grading as another form of meditation. Emptying your mind and focusing your energy on the poomsae helps block out things that maybe troubling you and helps you focus on the now.

So there are lots of ways to meditate without sitting under a bodhi tree waiting for enlightenment. Meditation walking for another example.

A good guide to start would be the book ‘Peace is every step’ by Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s a very clear and simple book from a zen master.

Chino Burga- Invokaciones (2021, Echodelick Records)

Chino Burga- Invokaciones (2021)

Invokaciones by Peruvian psychedelic drone master Chino Burga was brought to my attention last year by Echodelick Records when they sent me a test pressing of this piece of dense instrumental drone. I have to say it took me a while before I knew what I was to do with this, but in writing this piece about meditation all fell into place. I contacted Chino, and to my delight he was already deeply immersed into meditation.

Getting rid of time and tempo is exactly what Invokaciones does. It lurks and lumbers in a very eerie, and unfathomable way. It rather fills up an entire room with audio smoke, engulfing its listener with its soundwaves and lulling you in a trance. I could very well see me losing myself in a tranquil meditative state on this record. The way Chino Burga himself talks about, it might even been written to do so…

Do you meditate, what brought you into contact with it?

I passed throught a very dark period where I had almost no control of my own life, leading by anxiety, depression and addictions, it was reflected in several months with no sleep at all. So I started to calm down my brain with binaural frequencies and that was the first step for a deeper search

 In what way does (your) music play a role in meditation?

My music is the result of a lot rituals, where meditation is one of the phases that I set up to be able to process a new album. I found the act itself of playing as a meditation practice. As I try to play with no tempo and repetitively, soon I lost the sense of time, leaving me in a no-space-or-time place, perfect for introspection. But of course it’s a very own thing

Can you describe the importance of meditation in your life and in general?

Most people think meditation means close your eyes and relax for a certain period of time. To me represents a state of mind where you are aware of yourself, can happens listening music, reading a book or watching the trees, it just takes me to a silence in mind state that I appreciate each day more

Do you have any tips/tricks for starters?

I’m not a point of reference for sure….but…Try to keep silence in every sense in order to be able to listen in every sense

Anything you would like to add, names to drop, etc

Thank you and Echodelick for the support

Angad Berar- A Broadcast, Underwater (2020, self-released)

I got to know Angad Berar through his 2019 album Elephants On The Beach, that was re-released on vinyl by Echodelick Records last year. I was immediately struck by the immense tranquility and peace that emanated from his work. Samples of birds chirping and spoken word are worked delicately into his layered solo guitar structures, making for beautiful soundscapes that stay wonderfully captivating. A Broadcast, Under Water is a later release on which Angad Berar explores an even more tranquil and silenced mode of himself. It is a record that seems purposed for meditation. And so I contacted its maker, and once again asked him to comment.

 Do you meditate, what brought you into contact with it?

Yes, however the frequency is lesser than I would like (hahaha). I got introduced to meditation whilst living~working in a community located in South India. Invoked by the lush green vegetation, the quiet neighbourhood and the beauty of nature near the equator — the place offered dynamic meditation. We were gently motivated to live our day consciously and actively meditate on the tasks in hand.

In the evening, we collectively meditated in a shared space. A practice similar to Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Alfassa’s teachings — a branch of conscious meditation.

This new found approach to life brought significant changes to my approach to music, in terms of listening and playing. Hence, it was natural to continue this practice.

In what way does (your) music play a role in meditation?

Music is both the path and the vehicle when it comes to meditation. Often, it takes a form of either and on those rare occasions, it embodies a dual nature.
As a role, currently my music is still maturing and the preferred form is yet to be established. Most of the music I play is intended to calm the listener or to the very least induce joy. That’s the dream, you know?
Until now, I haven’t yet consciously created music for meditation. However, I feel its meditation which has played a role in my music. There is more air and pace between the notes.

Can you describe the importance of meditation in your life and in general?

I think it boils down to Cause and Effect. If the ‘cause’ is created mindfully then the ‘effect’ of it is true to it’s intent. For example if a song is created to induce peace or happiness, and for some reason the artist wasn’t mindful about what they were playing and how they were playing, it might happen that the final piece does not fully solve its purpose (of spreading happiness). In my family often when my mother or grandmother cook food – it induces happiness and joy amongst everyone. I feel that they cook mindfully with love and that gets translated into the food.

Meditation helps me clear the noise and centre myself. This ‘state’ allows me to be 100% focussed on the matter in hand – a being, task, dance, music whatever : )

In the words of Satprem – When the mind is silent, words come, speech comes, action comes, everything comes, automatically, with striking exactness and speed. It is indeed another, much lighter way of living.

Do you have any tips/tricks for starters?

For starters, I would suggest finding a mentor / guru to guide you. It might take some time to find the right person but in the end it will make all the difference.

Anything you would like to add, names to drop, etc

Songs that help me get there –

Madeira by Debashish Bhattacharya 

A Meaningful Moment by Stars of the Lid

Raga Yaman – Zia Mohiuddin Dagar

Zakir Hussain and Rakesh Chaurasiya 

Anti-Stress for babies and families by Suso Saiz

Angad Berar- Elephants On The Beach (2021 vinyl release, Echodelick Records)

There have been some cruel early mornings now, when I could not sleep because my back was killing me and urging me to get up, when this little nugget by Indian solo artist Angad Berar has really been there for me. I would get on my coat, get my two dogs, and just stroll in the earliness of dawn with Elephants On the Beach on my headphones. And you know, everything is a little bit more alright when listening to this record.

It’s a record about tripping, about watching movies, listening to your surroundings, and about being open about life experiences and learning. Without any lyrics at all, but through soundbites and just general positive vibrations in his music Angad Berar tells his listeners to just go with the flow, let the music take you where it wants you to go, and take it easy. I have had experiences like this listening to albums like Tommy Guerrero‘s Road To Nowhere, but not all that many. And let’s face it; for instrumental minimal music to really hit you like that, it’s quite special.

It’s a good thing then that US based Echodelick Records have picked up this album and properly release it on vinyl. It was originally released in 2019 already to little acclaim and would have definitely flown under my radar if it wasn’t for them. So go on, open up your third eye, take this trip with elephants on that beautiful Goa beach. You’ll find things you would not expect from an instrumental album.